Plague of glitches hit online health insurance sites

But people looking for in-person services have local services available.

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WALLA WALLA — Today is the first official day for Washington state residents to sign up for health insurance options, but those trying to do it online only found error messages on their computers.

“WA Healthplanfinder,” the online marketplace designed to help customers research and buy health insurance packages available county by county under the Affordable Care Act, crashed this morning, as did similar systems coast to coast.

State warns of fraudulent sites

The state insurance commissioner's office warns consumers to be aware that multiple fraudulent websites are operating that look like the official site for Washington's health insurance exchange, Washington Healthplanfinder.

The official website is www.wahealthplanfinder.org.

Other sites, such as wahealthfinder.com, are not affiliated with the exchange and may be scams to collect personal information.

The Office of the Insurance Commissioner is warning consumers of potential scams through its Facebook page and website.

For more information, or to report a possibly fraudulent website, call the insurance commissioner's consumer hotline at 800-562-6900.

While officials could hope for the best, this morning’s results were not unexpected, said Wes Luckey, head of the in-person plan navigator program for Walla Walla and two other counties.

“It’s a very complicated system that is working with other federal and state systems ... there will be compatibility issues,” he said.

His staff and other facilitators, plus trained and registered insurance agents, are not dependent on the online system and stand ready to help consumers begin shopping in person, Luckey said.

Washington Health Benefit Exchange Richard Onizuka said the state site launched at 7:30 a.m., but his office learned some users were experiencing slow loading times or difficulty completing their application.

“While this is not affecting all users, we want to investigate the root cause for why this is happening and will be placing the site in maintenance mode in order to identify and correct these issues.” he said.

Luckey said it’s important to keep in mind the online system will continue to have glitches as it gets under way, but open enrollment lasts until March 31.

In the meantime, more people to help shoppers find insurance plans are in the training and certification process for Walla Walla, he noted. Such assistants are trained in what each plan offers at every level of coverage. Navigators at specific agencies will serve their clients and his office is open to everyone.

Current navigators for health plan shoppers in the Walla Walla area are at Family Medical Center, 1120 Rose St., 525-6650. More agencies will be able to offer the service as soon as they become certified, Luckey said.

For more information call 509-545-4042.

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