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At least 23 sign up in SD insurance exchange

Chet Brokaw, Associated Press

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) -- Despite computer problems, at least 23 people in South Dakota signed up for health insurance in the first two weeks policies have been offered through an Internet exchange under the new federal law.

South Dakota is one of 36 states letting the federal government run its health exchange, where consumers can compare plans and buy insurance. But computer glitches have prevented many people from using the online marketplaces across the nation.

Avera Health Plans, Sanford Health Plan and DAKOTACARE, which is associated with the South Dakota State Medical Association, are approved to offer plans in South Dakota.

Deb Muller of Avera Health Plans said that company has had 21 enrollments as of Thursday, while Sanford Health reported two signups.

DAKOTACARE has had no sales yet, the Argus Leader reported.

Muller said enrollments have met Avera's expectations for the first two weeks of the exchange's operation. She said she expected some technical problems with the new computer system.

"The biggest issue right now is with people who are just trying to get into the system and be able to walk all the way through the system from registration to plan selection," Muller told The Associated Press. "They have made significant improvements in the first couple of week to getting you to the login point and getting through the registration process, but it still takes a while to do that."

Muller said people in her office have tried the online exchange, but have been unable to get all the way through the process.

"There are still some hangups, but we know it is working. I don't know the answer for why it works for some and it doesn't work for others," Muller said.

Muller said she doesn't know how many South Dakotans will eventually sign up for insurance through the online exchange.

"Let's see what the consumers say," she said.

Ruth Krystopolski, president of Sanford Health Plan, said that company has received two signups, both of which appeared to be eligible for 100 percent premium subsidies by the government. However, Sanford Health has no way to verify an applicant's income and has raised that issue with federal officials, she said.

The exchanges are intended to help uninsured people get coverage. Middle-class people without job-based coverage can shop for subsidized private plans, while low-income people are expected to be covered by an expanded Medicaid system. South Dakota has not yet decided whether to expand its Medicaid system.