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Vital Signs - Health Insurance Marketplaces: Real-Time Analyst Insights on HIX October 2013

  • November 2013
  • 14 pages
  • Frost & Sullivan
Report ID: 1902104


Table of Contents

Given the importance of the changes from PPACA and the creation of the health insurance marketplaces, we are providing our online Frost.com blog on HIX in collected form for the month of September for ease of use by our subscription clients. This discussion is brought to you by our Connected Health research program.

And They’re Off! Health Insurance Marketplace Launch

As it happens, I was in our nation’s capital for the past two days, on the very eve of the launch of the much-maligned and much-touted health insurance marketplaces, which were once called exchanges. But, nothing in my travels down K Street and a walk past the White House gave any indication that this historic moment was about to be born. Instead, the city was languishing over a pending, and almost certain shutdown, as the House and Senate could not reach a deal to keep the government going without either defunding or postponing the Affordable Care Act.

I boarded a plane at Reagan International late on the evening of September 30, and by the time I got back to Texas the clock had, indeed, run out on reaching a compromise or piece of legislation that was agreeable to the House, which called for a postponement of launching the Affordable Care Act for one year, among other riders to the funding bill. The Senate sent the bill back to the House stripping out this provision, which was, of course, doomed before it hit Speaker Boehner’s desk.

So, there you have it. Government shutdown. And with it, almost half of the HHS staff assembled to oversee the insurance marketplace launch will be at home today as a result. Not exactly what Kathleen Sebelius, secretary for Health and Human Services, had drawn up in her playbook for today.

After reading so much anticipation for today from both sides of the argument, it appears that October 1, 2013, will come in with a whimper and not a bang. It remains what the American people will do with online access to health insurance today. Perhaps, they will ignore their government as it appears the politicians have ignored those who seek to find coverage.

Demand for Health Insurance Marketplaces Online is Solid – Even Overwhelming

I was involved in healthcare interactive work for a few years, building websites, online SEO, mobile applications, smartphone and tablet work in Objective C and Titanium, and each and every site or app I worked on had “glitches.” In fact, we planned for them, allowed time after the “go-live” date to fix, what we called, bugs. Again, it always happened.

So, given the magnitude of the demand shown yesterday, which was the first opportunity for consumers to go online and shop for health insurance using online portals, what HHS refers to as health insurance marketplaces or exchanges, let’s pull out of the politics and reporting of “glitches” and look at what really happened yesterday.

The hardest thing to accomplish in working with any interactive tool is driving traffic to the site, or what is referred to as search engine optimization (SEO). New York State, which got approval to run and promote its own health insurance marketplace, received 2.5 million visitors to its marketplace URL in the first half-hour. California, another state administering and managing its own marketplace, saw as many as 16,000 hits a second. The 36 states where the federal government is running the marketplaces recorded 2.8 million online healthcare consumers visiting their site as well.

I would have loved to have been able to watch the Google Analytics spikes as the exchanges went online. This was a historical event in terms of queries and online activity, unprecedented in its size and scope. And as bugs are eliminated over the next few hours, activity will only increase.

In addition, people were also able to connect through call centers and health insurance plan navigators. So, all indications are that the residual systems in place also worked and are actively looking to improve performance. Patience is said to be virtuous. I predict that over the next 30 days we will see historic enrollment numbers and continued comfort with the software and HTML code. Make no mistake, healthcare in America is transforming. This healthcare consumer train will not be stopped by political pomp and circumstance.

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