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Health Insurance & Affordable Care Act

Frustration With First Days of Health Exchanges

Three-quarters of those who tried to sign up for insurance reported problems

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Karen Pallarito

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Oct. 10 (HealthDay News) -- A new poll of consumer satisfaction with the Affordable Care Act's health insurance exchanges confirms what headlines having been saying since the online marketplaces' launch: things have not gone smoothly.

Forty percent of Americans said the introduction of the insurance exchanges hasn't gone well, 20 percent said it's gone somewhat well and 30 percent had no opinion. Just 7 percent said the launch, which began Oct. 1, had gone "very well" or "somewhat well," the AP-GfK poll found.

Seven percent of those polled said someone in their household had tried to sign up for insurance through the exchanges -- potentially 20 million people. But three-quarters of those who tried to sign up reported problems, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

The online poll of 1,227 adults was conducted Oct. 3-7, the news service said.

But unlike the highly publicized problems that have plagued the federal health exchange website created to help Americans register for insurance coverage, many state-run exchanges are operating well, according to published reports.

The reason for the disparity: the sprawling federal website has been overwhelmed by visitors and -- some experts contend -- hampered by faulty design and software. The state-run sites, by comparison, are much smaller and nimbler, and technicians can react quickly to fix problems that arise, The New York Times reported.

"Individual state operations are more adaptable," Alan Weil, executive director of the National Academy for State Health Policy, an independent nonpartisan group, told the newspaper. "That does not mean that states get everything right. But they can respond more quickly to solve problems as they arise."

Another difference that helps to explain the relatively smooth launch of the state-run exchanges: some states let consumers explore insurance options -- such as costs and the pros and cons of different policies -- without first having to create an online account. On the federal exchange, called HealthCare.gov, shoppers must first create an online account. And creating an online account has been a major stumbling block and source of frustration for many people trying to use the federal exchange, the Times reported.

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