"I made all the deadlines, and then I tried to make my payment, but they wouldn't take it," said Van Daele.
Her case was finally resolved after an official from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services contacted Van Daele directly, following an Associated Press inquiry to the agency's Washington press office.
Van Daele is in remission following treatment for a type of blood cancer. Her previous coverage lapsed Dec. 31, and she started getting nervous when nothing for her new coverage arrived in the mail.
"My husband told me I shouldn't leave the house," she said.
Insurance industry consultant Bob Laszewski said he expects to hear more reports about orphaned files as patients begin to seek health care or start worrying about insurance cards that have not arrived.
"As we go through the month, you bet this is going to be a problem," he said.
Improving weather also could turn up more orphaned enrollees. The year started with a blast of freezing weather that settled over much of the U.S. Those conditions usually keep people indoors and out of the health care system unless they absolutely have to use it.
Laszewski and other insurer representatives say orphaned files exist largely because the government allowed people to sign up without first guaranteeing the technology would work.
Insurers say it usually takes a few days for a customer's file to reach them after they enroll through the exchange. People who still do not receive their insurance cards and introductory packet after that should call insurers first for help.
If the insurer has no record of them, they must contact the government for help.
Alonso-Zaldivar reported from Washington, D.C.
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