- The Washington Times - Monday, November 17, 2014

Idaho’s new insurance exchange had an”incredibly successful” opening weekend, its chief said Monday, cheering a smooth rollout after the state marketplace parted ways with the federal Obamacare website.

Pat Kelly, executive director for Your Health Idaho, said the exchange’s website received 13,000 unique visitors and its phone banks fielded 700 calls. Actual enrollment figures will not be reported until early December.

He said that officials were “really, really pleased” with the results and characterized the exchange portal’s launch as history-making.

While Oregon and Nevada had to ditch their glitchy state portals and rely on HealthCare.gov this year, Idaho headed in the opposite direction.

New Mexico also planned to set up its own platform after relying on the federal website in the first enrollment year, but it has not made the switch yet.

“We were the first state to jettison HealthCare.gov and launch our own technology platform,” Mr. Kelly said in Idaho.

Exchange officials complained of delays earlier this year in getting the data it needed from the Obama administration to help its 76,000 returning customers.

Exchange officials were able to overcome those hurdles and are now encouraging existing enrollees to shop around for cost-effective coverage or, if they like their plan, do nothing and be re-enrolled for another year. Returning customers will be able to create an account on the Your Health Idaho site and find their plan information, Mr. Kelly said.

Nationwide, officials are cheering a relatively smooth opening weekend for Obamacare’s second round.

HealthCare.gov, which now serves 37 states, avoided the type of glitches that spoiled its debut last year, and Washington State was able to recover by early Sunday after its tax-credit calculator produced errors on Saturday, the first day of enrollment.

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell is hitting a number of locations across America to spread the word about open enrollment, which lasts until Feb. 15

She is stopping at two places in Florida — in Tampa and then Miami — on Monday before heading to Houston for an event on Tuesday.

In Tampa, she toured a computer lab at the University of South Florida where people can sign up for health coverage through the federal exchange, ask questions or have someone walk them through the application, said Jodi A. Ray, who participated in the secretary’s event.

Ms. Ray is project director for Florida Covering Kids and Families, a university program that — through an Obamacare “navigator” grant — helps people in each of Florida’s 67 counties enroll in health coverage.

At the campus lab, she said, “What we’re able to do is enroll quite a few people simultaneously.”

Quite frequently, older students at the university who are turning 26 and can no longer stay on their parents’ insurance plan seek help at the lab.

“You’ll get the public in there, too, it’s not just the students,” she said.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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