Washington Healthplanfinder—our state’s online insurance exchange—ran into some technical difficulties just as the second open enrollment period kicked-off on Friday. Officials were forced to take the marketplace website offline in order to fix a serious problem associated with incorrect calculations of 2015 tax-credit amounts for those looking to purchase insurance.
Though the problem appears to be resolved (the website is back up), it does raise questions of why a website that has cost taxpayers millions does not yet run properly. Last year, Washington’s online exchange faced a series of “glitches.” Thousands of Washington State enrollees who signed up and paid for an Obamacare plan later found out that they do not actually have coverage due to a “system of defects and data issues,” in the words of Washington Health Benefit Exchange (WHBE) CEO Richard Onizuka.
In August, WHBE board members took Exchange officials to task for “a lack of transparency in describing and fixing technical problems.” As SHIFT reported, board member Teresa Mosqueda asked for a no-nonsense number on how many enrollees are affected by ongoing technical problems. The answer “appeared to stun some board members.” According to associate operations director Brad Finnegan, “glitches and technical problems have affected as many as 28,000 people trying to buy health insurance through the Washington Healthplanfinder online marketplace.”
That’s one out of every five enrollees who has had or is experiencing a problem with their plan. Whether or not this open enrollment period suffers from a similar series of “defects and data issues” remains to be seen, but it certainly did not launch at a running start… even after the months Exchange officials had to address the problems.