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Wait not over for health care exchange

Sara McManamy-Johnson • Updated Oct 7, 2013 at 6:20 PM

Tennesseans hoping to check out the new federal health care exchange may still have a bit of a wait.

Since the Oct. 1 rollout, users have reported widespread issues accessing the sites.

The enrollment process is especially gummed up in states where the federal government is running the marketplaces, like Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama.

Federal officials say they are working to fix the problems -- which they attribute to a high volume of traffic.

Rachel Maisler, A spokesperson from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said Monday the situation is improving, though.

“The work done to increase access to healthcare.gov in light of the overwhelming demand is beginning to show results,” said Maisler. “Call center wait times are seconds, not minutes, and people have been enrolling over the phone 24/7.”

She said Monday more than 560,000 calls have been made to the Marketplace call center.

Maisler said the department is adding server capacity to allow the system to handle bigger loads, and she said the specific component of the system that became overstressed is being moved from virtual machine technology to dedicated hardware.

Critics contend that the problems speak to instability in the law's implementation.

The new system's success hinges on close cooperation of state and federal systems, along with private contractors.

American Exchange, a Chattanooga-based company specializing in the federal marketplace, said Thursday it finally was starting to enroll people on the site -- though it has meant devoting one employee to logging computers into the site and waiting sometimes hours to be admitted.

"We still have glitches, but we're able to power through," said Vice President David Yoder, who estimated last week that the company had enrolled about 100 people.

Bert Kelly, spokesman for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia, said the company cannot confirm at this point how many people have signed up for its plans on HealthCare.gov.

"We will get a notification from [the federal government] that someone has enrolled," he said. "But none of the states have seen that information yet. ... Activity on our websites has increased dramatically, but we don't have any hard numbers."

People have until Dec. 15 to sign up for plans that take effect Jan. 1, and they can enroll as late as March 31.

According to data released by the CMS, a 27-year-old Wilson County resident can find plans ranging in price from $113 per month to $343 per month. The price does not reflect any applicable tax credits.

Kate Harrison of the Chattanooga Times-Free Press contributed to this report via MCT.

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