With An Unreliable Federal Health Exchange Website, Idaho Offers Old-School Solutions

Nov 4, 2013

Credit Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Because the federal heath insurance exchange website has been plagued by troubles including outages, the head of Idaho's marketplace says the state is stepping up to make it easier for people to sign up for health insurance.

Amy Dowd leads Your Health Idaho, the state’s health insurance exchange. Until next year, Idaho is using the federal portal to sign up consumers online.

But Dowd says since that federal technology isn’t working, Idaho is trying to help. “For those that need coverage, paper applications are now available through Your Health Idaho and the website," says Dowd. "You can also apply over the phone.”

Your Health Idaho has been adapting its website and outreach programs to deal with the failures of the federal system. The Idaho exchange is considering building a tool to allow Idahoans to compare plans without having to first sign up for an account, a big complaint of the federal website. That could take four- to-six weeks.

For now, consumers can access a booklet on Idaho’s site that provides details about plans in their area.  Dowd has also linked to the Kaiser Family Foundation calculator so people can estimate their premiums.  And this week, Your Health Idaho launches its own calculator which will provide Idaho specific results.

Lawmakers wanted to know how many people have signed up for insurance in Idaho since the website launched in October. But Dowd says she still doesn’t know.

“Since we are utilizing the federal technology platform, we don’t have real-time access to that information yet, we have been promised it by the end of November," Dowd says. "We do know that there are Idahoans enrolling in health plans.”

Over the weekend, a new message appeared on the federal health care website.  It says the site will be offline from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. overnight, while improvements are made and that additional down times may be possible.

Copyright 2013 Boise State Public Radio