- Associated Press - Sunday, May 11, 2014

SEATTLE (AP) - New glitches in Washington’s health insurance marketplace are causing problems for some new insurance customers.

About a hundred people have called to say they paid their premiums but have been told by insurance companies or their doctors they don’t have insurance, The Seattle Times reported (http://bit.ly/1nC3zHR ).

Richard Onizuka, CEO of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, said they are victims of system defects and data issues. The defects have been messing up invoices and payment systems.

Some people were billed incorrectly. In other cases, people paid their bills and the money never made it to their insurance companies.

The problems affect fewer than 5 percent of the 164,000 people who bought private insurance plans through Washington Healthplanfinder, Onizuka said.

Gordon Hempton of Indianola, Kitsap County, said he paid premiums for months but never received coverage for himself or his daughter.

Hempton, 61, an acoustic ecologist and sound engineer, said he enrolled in January, pleased to find affordable coverage for a hearing problem that had affected his work.

The next month, he enrolled his daughter, Abby, 23. That’s when the problems began.

Hempton couldn’t get into his account, and neither he nor his daughter appeared to have coverage. He says he spent hours on the phone with the exchange and nothing happened for months until a big bill arrived in the mail - for many times what he should have owed, with no explanation.

In frustration, Hempton canceled the insurance he apparently never had.

“Attitude is a really important ingredient of health, and this was ruining my health,” Hempton said. “I feel so much better already, even though I’m uninsured.”

Onizuka defended the exchange, saying it has processed more than $60?million in customer payments and has made “significant improvements” to billing processes and customer correspondence.

“However, Exchange staff recognized the frustration this has caused our customers and take these issues very seriously,” Onizuka said.

The exchange has been working with its IT vendor, Deloitte, to resolve the issues as soon as possible, and expects that many of the problems will be ironed out this weekend in a system update.

No customers have had their coverage canceled due to known payment or invoice problems, Onizuka said. However, a number of people said they had not been able to get health care because they remained uninsured despite having paid premiums.

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