Health Exchange Websites Improving, But Experts Still Concerned - 47 ABC - Delmarva's Choice

Health Exchange Websites Improving, But Experts Still Concerned

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WMDT 47 NEWS – Adjusting to the Affordable Care Act has not been an easy task for many residents across Delmarva.

While President Barack Obama is saying his signature health care law is working, and claims the website where people can sign up is cooperating for the "vast majority of users," some local insurance agents are still concerned.

"People just don't understand it, it's so confusing it changes every day," says Colleen Richardson, a benefits consultant with Landmark Insurance and Financial Group, in Princess Anne, Maryland.

"It has worked the past two weeks, but today for instance, we keep getting glitches in the system," says Alyssa Minton, an Executive at Avery Hall Insurance in Salisbury, Maryland. "I used three different Internet browsers to try to get it working and all three of them still not working today."

To add to the concerns, a new Treasury inspector general's report is warning that tax administered to lower income people, who buy health insurance through the exchanges, may be vulnerable to fraud.

Minton believes that part of this warning has to do with the many people who cannot predict their 2014 income.

"We're having a lot of issues because we have a lot of self-employed people, farmers, watermen, and their income changes every year based upon the weather or how the water is," says Minton. "When they do their taxes in 2015 for the year 2014 they may owe money back if their income is more than what they reported on the application today."

"Most people do not have a completely stable income," says Chris Carroll, vice president and health specialist for Atlantic Smith, Cropper and Deeley.

To avoid owing any money, insurance agents urge those who are eligible for a tax credit to make sure they update any changes to their income on the website. In addition, they recommend only taking part of the tax credit or waiting until the end of the year if possible.

"At the end of the year it's safer, but it makes the insurance premiums unaffordable for a lot of clients."

Carroll also feels that a lot of consumers who did not buy their insurance through the exchange may think they will be able to collect their tax payment at the end of the yea.

"You are not permitted to get it unless you bought it through the exchange," says Carroll. "So, if they got an extension under the grandfather plan or if their carrier is allowing them to keep the policy that they have now, that's not going to allow them to get access to the federal tax credit, even though their coverage will be bona fide coverage and allowable coverage."

Another fear for insurance agents' is the website's accuracy in estimating in monthly premiums. While this was reportedly fixed with improvements to the website, not everyone is convinced.

"Some of the calculations that we've seen on the website firsthand while working with clients are inaccurate," says Carroll.

"It's kind of scary, we actually had someone that had a negative one-cent premium," says Richardson. "Then, we did it a week later and it came out fine."

In the meantime, insurance agents are strongly urging consumers to meet with an agent or broker before submitting any applications or making any purchases. In almost all cases, this process is free.

"All of those technicalities are not built into the health care exchange just yet, so you need to be working with someone who understands those nuisances, as opposed to a computer screen," says Carroll.

"No matter what you think about this system, it's here," says Richardson. "It's a moving train, we just have to keep moving forward."

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