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Pressure mounts to fix Obamacare health insurance exchanges after 2 days of frustration

By Ricardo Alonso-zaldivar

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 2 2013 4:54 p.m. MDT

"It almost reminded me of going online and trying to buy Springsteen tickets," said Schorr, a self-employed accountant who works for her husband's recruiting firm in Orange, Ohio.

Others simply resorted to old-fashioned pen and paper.

Luis Veloz, a college student in Dallas, was so eager to have insurance that he had already mailed in a paper application by Tuesday night. He is hoping to avoid racking up major bills like his parents, who incurred $250,000 in debt when his father had a heart attack.

"It's an exciting moment because my family has never had preventative care," Veloz said.

Workers at the Florida Association of Community Health Centers printed out applications ahead of time.

"We don't care about the politics. This is about people so we were trying to make it easy for the patients," President and CEO Andy Behrman said.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, said the law also known as Obamacare was working well because his state embraced the health reform law early on instead of fighting it. The state processed 373 applications for coverage by the end of Wednesday.

"Because we took the time and effort to be ready, to handle the calls, to have our ducks in a row if you will, we are in far better shape than those states and governors that have turned their back on this historic program and historic offering," Malloy said.

The Obama administration hopes to sign up 7 million people during the first year. Using an expansion of Medicaid or government-subsidized plans, the White House would eventually like to cover at least half of the nearly 50 million Americans who are uninsured.

Many states expect people to sign up closer to the Dec. 15 deadline to enroll for coverage starting Jan. 1. Most customers will need to pay the first month's premium when they do, which could lead them to put off choosing, said Bob Dickes, director of sales and marketing for the nonprofit insurer Oregon's Health CO-OP.

"I expect people to shop and see what's out there," Dickes said.

Customers have until the end of March to sign up to avoid tax penalties.

Under the law, health insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to someone with a pre-existing medical condition and cannot impose lifetime caps on coverage. They also must cover a list of essential services, ranging from mental health treatment to maternity care.

Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Laura Olson in Sacramento, Calif.; David Pitt in Des Moines, Iowa; Kelli Kennedy in Miami; Tom Murphy in Indianapolis; Don Babwin and Carla K. Johnson in Chicago; John Seewer in Toledo, Ohio; Phillip Rawls in Montgomery, Ala.; Susan Haigh in Hartford, Conn.; Steve Karnowski in Minneapolis; and Ramit Plushnick-Masti in Houston.

Online:

https://www.healthcare.gov

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