WA health exchange website hits snag on first day

The Associated PressOctober 1, 2013 

— The website for Washington state's new health exchange got off to a rough start Tuesday. Reports of people being unable to get onto the site or complete their application led officials to take the site offline shortly after it went live.

Officials said that while not all users were affected, they put the site into maintenance mode to investigate the problem. Michael Marchand, a spokesman for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, said that the phone number for people to call, 855-923-4633, is not affected, and people are still able to go to locations around the state in person.

Washington state's marketplace used Twitter to apologize and to thank users for their patience: "We are working to ... correct a few things and will have an update at 9:30amPST."

Washington officials also warned people not to be fooled by fraud sites set up to look like wahealthplanfinder.org. Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler asked Washington residents to report any look-alike sites to his office.

Some of those sites were set up by licensed insurance agents, attempting to increase business, but others may be scammers attempting to get personal information such as social security numbers, said Richard Onizuka, CEO of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange.

Washington residents have six months to buy health insurance through the new exchange during the first enrollment period, which ends in March.

The state estimates about a million Washington residents do not have health insurance, or about one in seven people.

The state hopes to enroll 130,000 people for health insurance in 2014 and another 280,000 in 2015.

Another 325,000 people will be eligible to sign up for free insurance through Medicaid.

Under the Affordable Care Act, people who don't have insurance in 2014 will pay a fine when they file their federal income taxes in early 2015. The fines for people who ignore the new law are scheduled to increase over time.

"We want 6.5 million people to go to healthplanfinder to check it out," Marchand said Monday.

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