MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Oklahoma News

October 2, 2013

Federal health exchange launches in Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The launch of a federal health insurance marketplace that allows consumers to shop for and buy health insurance got off to a slow start across Oklahoma on Tuesday, but officials said that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Although there were scattered reports of problems logging into the new system and the federal website noted that heavy traffic was making the page slow to load, that isn’t unexpected on the first day of operation, said Chad Austin, who is overseeing 60 navigators who have been hired to help people use the website.

“The marketplace is opening across the United States, and there’s a lot of people in there right now,” said Austin, the navigator program coordinator for the Hugo, Okla.-based Little Dixie Community Action Agency, which was awarded a federal grant to hire the navigators.

To avoid a rush as people began logging into the system, Austin said navigators set up appointments with clients who were interested in getting on the exchange to shop for insurance.

“I actually advised that some of us not make our first appointments until later in the week,” Austin said. “That way, we’ve got a couple of days to work through the system and any kinks in the system that might develop have a chance to get worked out.”

At a training session for people interested in learning more about the Health Insurance Marketplace in Oklahoma City, a bank of 20 computers sat empty and insurance company employees trained to answer questions from the public chatted among themselves.

No one from the public had visited the all-day event two hours after it began on Tuesday.

“I think people are waiting to learn more about the marketplace,” said John Williams, a spokesman for Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Oklahoma.

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