371 Kansans picked exchange plans in first month

HHS report: 371 Kansans selected health plans through federally run exchange in first month

Associated Press

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- Only 371 Kansas residents selected a private health insurance plan through a federally run online marketplace during its first, glitch-plagued month in operation, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported Wednesday.

The department also said the insurance exchange had 6,061 completed applications from Kansas from Oct. 1 to Nov. 2, seeking coverage for 12,205 people. Of those people, 3,009, or 24.6 percent, were eligible to receive federal subsidies to help them pay their premiums.

It was the first hard data on Kansans seeking coverage through the online marketplace, but HHS didn't say how many of the 371 Kansans who selected plans had started paying premiums. The rollout of the federal website was rocky, with consumers encountering frozen screens and problems with even getting passwords.

The Kansas Insurance Department had encouraged consumers to wait several weeks to enroll in a plan so that HHS could work out glitches. People must select a plan by Dec. 15 if they're to have coverage for all of 2014.

"I don't think we are surprised by the numbers; the marketplace isn't working as expected yet," Linda Sheppard, the state Insurance Department's health policy director, said in a statement.

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and the GOP-dominated Legislature refused to set up a state insurance exchange or partner with HHS on one.

Republican officials in Kansas have been strongly critical of the health care overhaul championed by President Barack Obama, a Democrat. The criticism intensified with the website's problems and after the state's largest health insurer notified about 9,500 policy holders that it was canceling their coverage because their plans don't meet mew federal coverage mandates.

The HHS report said of the people who sought coverage in October, 1,718 were deemed eligible for government health care coverage, such as Medicaid.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimated earlier this year that 363,000 of the state's 2.8 million residents had no health insurance.

U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, a Republican who represents the 1st District of western and central Kansas, described the enrollment numbers as "pathetic" and called the health overhaul "all hat, no cattle."

"ObamaCare is a bum steer that needs to be turned out to pasture," Huelskamp said in a statement.

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Follow John Hanna on Twitter at www.twitter.com/apjdhanna

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