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Many are still locked out of Missouri, Illinois health exchanges [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]

By Jim Doyle, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Oct. 02--Thirty hours after the opening of the federal health insurance marketplace, consumers are still having trouble logging onto various health exchanges and obtaining information about insurance rates.

Many users are stopped cold when they attempt to sign on to the exchange. Often, a pull-down window with the first of three security questions fails to appear. These questions need to be asked and answered to open an account.

"We've no luck getting on the exchange and no luck getting rates," said Paul Flotken, managing partner at St. Louis-based Caravus, a health benefits consulting firm. "We can't make comparisons for people. People are saying, 'What's it going to cost?' We can't tell them what it's going to cost."

He is not alone.

Ryan Barker, vice president for health policy at nonprofit Missouri Foundation for Health, said that he and his staff have had no luck creating an account on the health exchange.

"We're not sure if it's quantity of visitors of if they have (technical) issues," Barker said. "We haven't found anybody yet in Missouri who's been able to get through the process. So I hope they're working on it. I assume they are."

At the Betty Jean Kerr People's Health Centers on Delmar, counselors are still hoping to enroll at least one person onto the troubled federal website, something that has eluded them on Tuesday.

When asked Monday afternoon about the potential for computer glitches and delays in opening the health exchanges, regional spokeswoman Julie Brookhart for the Department of Health and Human Services said federal marketplace via would open with "full functionality" on Tuesday morning at 7 a.m.

At a telephone press conference on Tuesday afternoon, reporters from various organizations across the country described the difficulties they encountered in logging onto, creating accounts and gaining access to insurers' rates on the exchange website. HHS officials repeatedly said that the problems had been fixed.

Today, Post-Dispatch reporters have not been able to log onto the Missouri or Illinois exchanges, create an account and obtain information regarding insurance rates.

HHS officials in Washington, D.C., have not yet responded to a request for details on when they expect the system to achieve "full functionality" and what efforts are being undertaken to address these issues.

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