New Hampshire’s Obamacare website launches today, same day as deadline to sign up
Scroll down the front page of the brand new website CoveringNewHampshire.org and take a look at the “Key Dates” section.
“Oct. 1: Open enrollment began,” it reads. “Jan. 1: Earliest date coverage begins. . . . Mar. 31: Open enrollment closes for plan year 2014.”
There’s one important date missing: Today.
Dec. 24 is the last day for people to enroll in a health plan on New Hampshire’s federally run insurance marketplace in order to get coverage starting Jan. 1. The enrollment period was scheduled to end Dec. 15, but was extended twice, first to Dec. 23, and then, over the weekend and without much fanfare, to midnight tonight.
The CoveringNewHampshire.org site almost missed being available for people before this first deadline. It also almost never existed at all.
The site was built using part of a $5.4 million federal grant the state received because it is implementing the Affordable Care Act in a partnership with the federal government.
Republicans in the Legislature blocked the New Hampshire Insurance Department’s acceptance of the grant in the spring, saying the site and in-person assisters it would fund would overlap with federal efforts and confuse consumers.
In August, the New Hampshire Health Plan, the state’s high-risk insurance pool, received approval to administer the grant. The plan is overseen by an independent board, which officials said made it independent from legislative oversight.
“We knew our site was going to be late coming out, because we got started late in the game. It’s great it will be out there at the end, and I think during the first quarter of next year, I hope it’s a valuable tool,” said Mike Degnan, executive director of the New Hampshire Health Plan.
“Our goal was to get some information source out there that is specific to New Hampshire. I think it meets that goal. It flows pretty well, it’s got a lot of good information – it’s simple to use, and we’re hoping it meets in the needs long term for the citizens of New Hampshire.”
One page on the site explains the essential health benefits that all plans on the marketplace must cover, along with definitions for some words and terms that show up frequently in conversations about insurance, such as premium, deductible and co-pay.
Another page allows visitors to compare the costs and coverage of the 11 insurance plans available on New Hampshire’s marketplace.
The site also has a list of resources organized by county where people can get help enrolling in a plan.
Despite all those resources on the new site, New Hampshire residents haven’t missed out on much because of the late debut, said Karen Pollitz, senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Other states, including many that are running their own marketplaces, are still having significant trouble getting information to people and processing enrollment applications.
In Oregon and Maryland, for example, the deadline for Jan. 1 coverage is Dec. 27, but the states’ sites are barely functional, she said.
Oregon’s system sent automatic messages to applicants Friday, warning them that unless they received confirmation of enrollment by yesterday, their paperwork won’t be processed in time for Jan. 1 coverage.
“There’s definitely still time for people to use a site like” CoveringNewHampshire.org, she said. “If you’ve got a website that’s working, good for you. Take advantage of the time that’s left.”
(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)