12 Reasons Open Enrollment Will Be Better This Year

LAKEVILLE, Minn., Sept. 30, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Roughly a year ago, when federal and state governmental bodies launched the first open enrollment period (OEP) established by the Affordable Care Act, media had much in the way of negative enrollment stories to report. Accounts of online delays – and at times, complete web crashes – were plentiful. Online enrollment success stories were sparse by comparison.

Fast-forward to this fall – as the same governmental entities prepare for "Round Two" of Obamacare's open enrollment – and things are decidedly different. At least that's what healthinsurance.org contributor Louise Norris concluded when she conducted a state-by-state review of how exchange enrollment systems have been improved to be more efficient and user friendly.

Norris, author of more than 120 healthinsurance.org opinion pieces and educational articles about the impact and implications of Obamacare, outlines those improvements in her latest report, 12 reasons open enrollment will be better this year. The veteran blogger and licensed health insurance agent solicited feedback from representatives at every state exchange and was able to set up interviews with all but a few of them to discuss marketplace improvements.
Of the representatives Norris interviewed, the vast majority indicated that new or improved systems put in place in recent months will result in more user-friendly systems. Among the improvements, Norris reports:

A couple of states – Oregon and Nevada – have switched from troubled state-run exchanges to HealthCare.gov while Idaho has actually converted from a partnership model to operate a state-run exchange. Several other states have upgraded site mechanisms by replacing their sites' enrollment software or – in the case of California – tweaking their consumer information mechanism.

Even Kynect – the Kentucky exchange hailed as a model of marketplace enrollment success – has improved its enrollment process. The state addressed telephone enrollment and support issues with improved call centers and has also debuted a new mobile app.

On the federal side, Norris reports, HealthCare.gov has made numerous improvements to improve enrollment for customers in the 37 states that rely on the marketplace. A new team of programmers focused on the web interface, enhanced data security measures and cloud hosting to deal with traffic surges are all signs the site will be significantly more efficient, says Norris.

Will the exchanges be completely glitch-free? Probably not, reports Norris, who also documents issues with several exchanges and cites a HealthCare.gov official who admits things "are not yet entirely perfect." But even trouble exchanges such as Minnesota's MNsure are taking steps to deal with technological glitches.

How will the improvements change the user experience? Only the upcoming open enrollment period (November 15 through February 15) will tell, says Norris, who adds that this OEP will bring even more dramatic surges of customers, thanks to re-enrollment and a shorter (by half) enrollment period.

The report, 12 reasons open enrollment will be better this year, is part of an ongoing series of healthinsurance.org posts and state-by-state tracking of exchange developments – all designed to help health insurance consumers better understand their health coverage options under the Affordable Care Act and more easily navigate the open enrollment process.

About healthinsurance.org

Created in 1994, healthinsurance.org is one of the longest running sources of in-depth information about health insurance. The site was designed to be a resource for Americans who – for whatever reason – had difficulty obtaining health insurance on the private market.
Today, the site and its team of expert contributors are focused intently on health reform. Together with writers from other health care advocacy groups we endeavor to educate Americans about the health care system and to give them a thorough understanding of how the Affordable Care Act will improve their lives and to help dispel myths and scare tactics about the law.

For interviews with Louise Norris, please contact:
Steve Anderson (817) 991-9791 / sanderson@healthinsurance.org