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HHS chief urges consumers enroll in health system

By Lisa Cornwell

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 16 2013 4:45 p.m. MDT

CINCINNATI — Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Wednesday that while online enrollment in the new federal health care system has not been without technical problems, anyone who had difficulties should try again.

The system has improved and work continues on it, she said, while no one has lost an opportunity for health care coverage. Enrollment began Oct. 1 and continues into March.

"I am the first to admit that the launch was rockier than we would have liked," she told reporters after a panel discussion in Cincinnati on President Barack Obama's signature federal health care law.

Sebelius' department has come in for strong criticism over the glitches, but she said work is continuing on them and she stressed that the system is up and running.

"Prices don't change and the product doesn't run out," Sebelius said, urging those who had difficulty enrolling initially to "come back."

But the department has yet to provide any enrollment figures.

"We have told people from the beginning, like all of our programs, we will give monthly enrollment data along with the states and the whole country," Sebelius said when questioned about the lack of data. "We want to be sure when we give people data that it is accurate."

Sebelius said an estimated 1.4 million Ohioans are uninsured and eligible for health insurance through the so-called marketplace exchanges. About six out of 10 people will find a plan in the exchanges for $100 or less a month, she said.

But Kathy Leugers, 60, who attended the discussion at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, said the new system will hurt her.

Leugers, who lives in the Cincinnati suburb of Montgomery, said she has been paying for a private plan since being laid off from jobs in the computer field, but was told by her insurer that her current plan will not be available after December 2014 under the new federal law. She said she doesn't qualify for coverage through the federal program.

"I have the choice of paying double what I am already paying or going without insurance," Leugers said.

On the other hand, 23-year-old Joshua Goad, a Cincinnati State student, likes the new system.

"This allows me to stay on my parents' plan until I can get on my feet," said Goad, who also was in the audience.

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