W.Va. health exchange enrollment numbers expected next week

Oct 3, 2013

After an influx on inquiries in the first 24 hours of the health care exchange, an official at the state Department of Health and Human Resources says the federal government is working to fix bugs and increase capacity both online and at their national call center.

Assistant to the Secretary at the DHHR Jeremiah Samples said Thursday the federal government did experience some technical issues in the first 24 hours of the online exchange. He accounted the issues to the large number of Americans looking for information about health care coverage.

“The feds are saying they’ve had 7 million independent hits from across the country on the federal exchange itself,” Samples said, but added they’ve worked to increase capacity on the site to account for the numbers.

As for the federal call center, a second option for people looking to sign up for health coverage, Samples said the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services received more than 295,000 calls the first day, but have also added phones lines to decrease the wait time.

“The first day we were hearing wait times as long as a half an hour,” he said, “and they’re saying that the wait times at the call center have been cut in half since the launch, especially over the last 24 hours.”

As far as the number of West Virginians who have taken advantage of the exchange, the state won’t receive those numbers until early next week, but Samples could say a majority of people using in-person assistors at county DHHR offices are of lower incomes and find they are eligible for Medicaid under the state’s program expansion.

“That’s probably because there’s more experience in that low income population dealing with the DHHR offices,” he said.

As for the large number of not just West Virginians, but Americans who have shown interest in the health care marketplace, Samples said he’s not surprised about the surge in interest.

“We anticipated that there would be three major rushes to assess what coverage was available by the public, Samples said. “Here October 1st. We also anticipate around January 1 because that’s when the coverage actually begins and then towards March 31 toward the end of the open enrollment period.”

He based that assessment on the annual trend the DHHR sees during open enrollment for Medicaid.