Health insurance exchange addresses website problems

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

Published:

Updated: October 2, 2013, 5:14 PM

 

Washington health exchange officials hope fixes made Tuesday evening will correct many of the website’s opening day glitches.

Despite the optimism, officials warn that users may still experience brief interruptions or difficulty browsing for plans.

Washington Healthplanfinder, the online marketplace where individuals purchase coverage for themselves and their families, launched at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday. Shortly after its launch, however, officials pulled the site offline to address slow loading times and difficulties people encountered when trying to complete applications.

The site, www.wahealthplanfinder.org, was back up and running by 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Tuesday evening, information technology staff conducted a “thorough end-to-end investigation” of the system to determine the root cause of the intermittent issues, said Richard Onizuka, chief executive officer for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, in a news release.

After conducting the analysis, IT staff made additional system modifications to address the issues, he said.

“Our initial findings determined that unexpected user activity and interaction with the marketplace created some of these issues,” Onizuka said. “This activity included sporadic, exploratory navigation through Washington Healthplanfinder on day one that was very hard to replicate even in our extensive testing leading up to launch.”

In the first day of operation, the Healthplanfinder website had 170,487 page views, and more than 6,300 people created user accounts.

The toll-free customer support center — 855-WAFINDER (855-923-4633) — received twice the projected number of consumer inquiries. The support center fielded nearly 6,200 phone calls and had an average wait time of 1 minute, 13 seconds, according to the Health Benefit Exchange, the public-private partnership tasked with implementing Healthplanfinder.

“We understand the frustration of our customers who are experiencing issues with the website and want to assure them that we are committed and actively working to making this better,” Onizuka said. “We have also created a new Washington Healthplanfinder system update page on our organization’s website to allow consumers to get more information about their options if they’re unable to currently complete an application online.”

That web address is www.wahbexchange.org/news-resources/healthplanfinder-status-updates.

Open enrollment on the state-based exchange, which was created under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, runs through March 31. Insurance coverage begins Jan. 1 for those who enroll by Dec. 23.