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Expect tech glitches when Obamacare launches Oct. 1

Ann Bednarz | Sept. 30, 2013
Interagency information sharing and transactional complexity are hampering launch of Obamacare health insurance marketplaces.

The federal government can draw on its experience with Medicare Part D, a federal program to subsidize prescription drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries. Medicare D necessitated data sharing and coordination among government agencies and "provided a good foundation for this," Frizzera notes. "We learned a lot about how difficult that is -- though this is obviously bigger, because there are more agencies involved in the transfer of data."

Some are viewing the Oct. 1 opening of the exchanges as a soft launch, since coverage doesn't begin until January. That in-between period might provide tech teams the buffer they need to work out the kinks and glitches that surface after the launch.

"I've been doing this for probably three years now, and the primary question on my mind all along that path is: What happens on October 1?" Howard says. "It's very unclear, because we've never had an experience like this ... we don't know how many people are going to use it on October 1."

There's been a lot of publicity about the Oct. 1 launch, and anticipation is building.

"There's a lot of pent up curiosity," Howard says. "Let's say I make $40,000 and have a family of four. How much would it cost me to get health insurance through the exchange? How much will my tax credit be? What kinds of plans are out there?"

"I think a lot of people will go online and browse. Over time, people will start to get to a mode of, ok, I've seen enough, it's getting close to January, and I want to lock in my plan.' My guess is we'll get lots and lots of activity around the Thanksgiving time frame," Howard says.

"We can learn from those early adopters to make the experience better for the majority of the population."

In the meantime, "everybody has been working hard, and everybody's tired," Howard says. "But when you see 10/1 coming, there's that extra adrenaline rush that keeps you going. Everyone is excited to see these systems go live that they've spent a year, year-and-a-half building."


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