By Friday morning, more than 2,800 people had used the Massachusetts Health Connector’s insurance marketplace to enroll in coverage. That was up from about 300 one week ago, but tens of thousands of people who have applied for coverage remain in limbo.
The Connector is working with system developer CGI to increase the website’s ability to handle many users at once before the Tuesday deadline, though the site has for months been finicky and slow in processing data.
“We know we’re going to have heavy volume through the 31st, so we want to be sure the system responds appropriately,” Connector spokesman Jason Lefferts said.
The Connector site has not been responding appropriately since it was launched Oct. 1. The Massachusetts marketplace created under a 2006 state law was the model for the Affordable Care Act. But the website has performed so poorly since being overhauled to comply with the federal law that many customers have had to submit paper applications, which the Connector has been processing offline.
The website has locked people out of their accounts, been slow to load pages, and has delivered confusing error messages. Users have also endured long waits for customer service. On Monday, the Connector extended the January enrollment deadline to next Tuesday, giving people an extra week to submit their application.
The Connector is meant to be a marketplace where people who work part time, are self-employed, or otherwise do not have access to employer-
sponsored insurance can shop for plans. It is not clear exactly how many could be left uninsured Wednesday, with no coverage through the Connector.
About 1,000 people in Massachusetts have plans expiring this month that were purchased without financial assistance through the Connector’s Commonwealth Choice program. Another 1,800 people have young adult plans that are ending. Others may have a plan through an employer that is expiring, or they may have been uninsured to begin with.
About half the 46,812 people who have completed applications will continue to have coverage in January even if their applications are not processed by Tuesday, because they are covered by state-subsidized insurance programs. Those programs, including the Connector’s Commonwealth Care and the state’s insurance for the unemployed, were slated to end this month, but the state extended them through the end of March.
Despite persistent problems with the website, Lefferts urged people to try applying online before reverting to paper applications.
Anyone looking for January coverage must apply and select a plan by Tuesday. Those who qualify for new federal tax credits also must make their first payment by then, or they will be enrolled in temporary coverage next month through MassHealth, the state health plan for the poor.
Those who qualify for ConnectorCare plans, which include some state assistance, will receive a bill next month for their January and February premiums.
People applying for unsubsidized plans who want coverage to begin next month must pay by Jan. 10.
The Connector will not send member information to insurers until that payment is received, but medical costs accrued at the start of the month will be paid retroactively as long as payment is made in time.