WA Health Benefit Exchange CEO grades website's performance

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by ELISA HAHN / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @ElisaHahnK5

KING5.com

Posted on January 8, 2014 at 6:25 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 8 at 6:29 PM

When asked to give a grade to the Washington's Health Benefit Exchange for its performance so far, CEO Richard Onizuka said, "a B- or C+."

While the Washington Healthplanfinder has hit its initial target for enrollment, it is still struggling with technical glitches on its website and a swamped helpline.

Latest figures show 177,065 people are newly enrolled for Medicaid. 71,205 have enrolled and paid for Qualified Health Plans. Another 72,178 QHP enrollees still have yet to pay.

Onizuka says the QHP numbers show they've at least hit their minimum.

"Our medium projection was about 130 (thousand) by January 1st," said Onizuka. "Our low target was about 70 thousand, by January 1st. So we're right about at a low target."

Onizuka said an estimated 20 percent of the remaining QHP enrollees who have not paid their premiums yet are expected to do so.

KING 5 has received dozens of emails from frustrated viewers in just the last two weeks. Some complain about unexpected cancellation notices. A spokesperson for the Exchange says those are likely problems with individual cases and not a systemic issue.

But on the Healthplanfinder's Facebook page, the overwhelming complaint is with the helpline.

The Exchange spokesperson says for every customer service representative on duty, they allow  two calls on hold. So if 150 reps are working, and each one has a call, 300 calls are allowed in the hold queue.

The rest are described as "throttled" calls and are asked to call back. In October, the Exchange had 76,000 throttled calls. November it was 157,000. December numbers have yet to be reported.

An estimated 70 percent of the "throttled" calls are from repeat callers, meaning the same individuals are calling over and over again, according to an Exchange spokesperson. They are trying to find a way to help solve customers problems early to avoid the repeat callbacks.

"We're working on a process to get more resources to triage the calls initially and get them to the place they need to go," said Onizuka.

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