Web Glitches Hinder Mississippians Signing Up For Insurance

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Mississippi is one of 34 states that has let the federal government run its health insurance exchange. It has had the same glitches and long wait times as other states. Despite the trouble, people are slowly signing up.

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JEFFREY HESS, BYLINE: I'm Jeffrey Hess in Jackson, Mississippi which is one of the 34 states letting the federal government take the lead in establishing a health insurance exchange. Heavy web traffic and software problems have made it nearly impossible to use the new web site since it opened last week.

MEREDITH STARK: Why I keep trying is because this is something we need.

HESS: After a week of trying, 29 year old hotel desk clerk Meredith Stark became one of the few who managed to sign up. With a household income just over $20,000, she was able to get subsidized health insurance for herself and her husband for $60 a month.

STARK: I feel really lucky. I mean, that is less than a cell phone bill. Like Obama said, it is less than a cell phone bill.

HESS: Stark says she has a chronic blood condition and been skipping medication for three years while uninsured because of its cost. So for her it was worth the wait. But others had more trouble. I sat down with 25 year old Robbie Gowdy, an uninsured bartender in Jackson, Mississippi as he tried to sign up.

ROBBIE GOWDY: Individuals and families apply now.

HESS: He wants to enroll but when he attempts to use the site, he gets repeated error messages, redundant requests for information, and long waits.

GOWDY: OK. So I guess they are just trying to make sure that I am not a robot trying to get health insurance.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: We apologize for the delay. We are experiencing higher than normal wait times.

HESS: After an hour of trying and running into errors and dead ends, Gowdy calls it quits.

GOWDY: Usually when you have to jump through this many hoops you are at least going to have cable at the end of it.

HESS: He's going to keep trying, and officials need healthy young people like him to be persistent for the law to work.

GOWDY: We got a little bit of the way. It wasn't a complete and total failure. I did get an account created in the marketplace. So that door is open for coming back later when the site is up and running more fluidly to see what kind of health coverage I am able to get.

HESS: The web site is the main way for the roughly 275,000 uninsured Mississippians who are eligible to find health insurance coverage. For NPR news, I am Jeffrey Hess.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Jeffrey Hess and Sarah Varney come to us as part of a partnership with NPR local member stations and Kaiser health news.

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