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East to West, Obamacare Exchange Problems Continue in Deep Blue States

"On the back of the envelope was hand-written 'VERMONT HEALTH CONNECT IS NOT A SECURE WEBSITE!'"

Problems persist in blue states on the eastern and western ends of the country for implementing Obamacare.

President Barack Obama speaks about the health care reform laws, known as Obamacare, at an Organizing for Action event Nov. 4, 2013 in Washington. (Getty Images)

When the Obamacare website became plagued by troubles, President Barack Obama and other supporters of the Affordable Care Act assured the public last month there are other ways to to sign up, by phone or paper applications. Except the call centers weren't working that effectively either in many cases – a recent example being Washington State.

Only about one-third of the calls – about 47,000 of the 167,000 – to Washington's HealthPlanFinder in October were handled. The rest either got recordings telling them the call volume was very high or callers just hung up after an extended wait, The Seattle Times reported. The HealthPlanFinder is operated by the Washington Health Benefit Exchange.

“We continue to have trouble with the call center,” Washington Health Benefit Exchange CEO Richard Onizuka told the exchange board last week. He said it was increasing in November.

The call volume worked out to about 7,200 for each week day or about 600 calls per hour. More than 76,000 of the calls got recorded messages telling them because of high call volumes they should call back later. More than 44,000 of the calls were hangups, the Times reports.

The state's exchange is anticipating another surge of calls next month because Dec. 23 is the deadline to sign up for coverage that by law must begin by Jan. 1. So they buffed up the call center staff to 286 for December from 135 in October.

Washington, is a traditionally blue northwestern state that Obama won with 56 percent of the vote in the 2012 presidential election.

Meanwhile, in the northeast, Vermont's health care website is facing problems with a security breach, allowing a user to gain access to Social Security numbers and other data, the Burlington Free Press reports.

In 2012, Obama carried Vermont by 61 percent.

A consumer reported the incident in mid October regarding the Vermont Health Connect website. He reported that he received in the mail a copy of his own application for insurance under the state exchange from an unnamed sender.

“On the back of the envelope was hand-written ‘VERMONT HEALTH CONNECT IS NOT A SECURE WEBSITE!’ This was also (written) on the back of the last page of the printed out application,” said a report from the Vermont Health Connect, a division of the Department of Vermont Health Access, which investigated the matter.

The report was sent to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

This was a unique occurrence, and hasn't happened again in the month of October, said, Mark Larson, commissioner of the Department of Vermont Health Access.

“This was one case and it was responded to appropriately,” Larson said.

The newspaper said that on Nov. 5, Larson responded to a question from the Vermont House Health Care Committee, and said the department investigated an alleged security breach and determined it did not happen.

(H/T: The Seattle Times, Burlington Free Press)

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