Report: 398 Alaskans pick marketplace plans

December 11, 2013 Updated: December 11, 2013 at 8:02 pm

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Government figures released Wednesday show 398 Alaskans signed up for private health insurance during the first two months of the online marketplace.

Alaska is one of 36 states that has relied on a federally run website to provide access to individuals wanting to shop for insurance to help meet requirements of the new health care law. Glitches plagued the site after its Oct. 1 rollout, and prior figures released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services showed that just 53 Alaskans had signed up for plans during the first month of enrollment.

The department on Wednesday reported that nearly 365,000 people had enrolled in plans nationwide as of Nov. 30, including more than 137,000 people in states served by the federal site and more than 227,000 in states running their own sites.

Open enrollment runs through March, though Dec. 23 is the deadline to enroll for coverage beginning Jan. 1.

Meanwhile, all three members of Alaska's congressional delegation also had signed up for plans.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Don Young obtained policies through a Washington, D.C., marketplace. The two Republicans have been critics of the health care law and expressed frustration with the enrollment process. A photo of an exasperated-looking Murkowski was posted to her Twitter feed Monday along with the announcement of her enrollment.

Young spokesman Matthew Shuckerow said by email that Young spent more than two days in the enrollment process before receiving a confirmation email. He said Young will face a premium increase of more than triple his existing rate.

Members of Congress were eligible for employer contributions of 75 percent of their premiums if they signed up through the D.C. exchange. Democratic Sen. Mark Begich opted instead to sign up through the Alaska marketplace.

Begich, a supporter of the health care law who is expecting a tough re-election fight next year, said he wanted to have the same experience as other Alaskans and felt it only fair to enroll as he did.

As for the new enrollment figures, Murkowski and Young were not impressed. Murkowski said in a statement Wednesday that President Barack Obama's administration should delay implementation of the entire law for a year, while Young questioned the administration's ability to manage implementation of the law.

Begich said in a statement that he's seen major improvements in the site over the past few weeks and signing up is much easier than it had been. He said more than 55,000 Alaskans will qualify for subsidies that will make health care more affordable and he expects more Alaskans will visit the website to compare plans.

Tyann Boling is chief operating officer of the broker Enroll Alaska, which was created to help individuals enroll and understand their options, though Alaskans can sign up on their own, too. She said on a scale of 1 to 10, the website, in her view, is now functioning at a 7. She said it was at a 1 in October and 4 in November.

She said Enroll Alaska lost momentum in trying to sign people up with the website problems earlier on. But she said things are turning around.

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