Health insurance exchange opens with glitches

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Opening day glitches were apparent Tuesday as the online insurance marketplaces at the heart of the national health care overhaul opened.
A spokesman for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana - one of four companies providing insurance through the exchange in Louisiana - said no one among about a dozen testers of the system was able to complete a transaction early Tuesday.
"We're advising people to take a deep breath, relax," company spokesman John Maginnis said. "The exchanges, the marketplaces, are going to be open for quite a long time."
The enrollment period lasts six months.
Louisiana is among the states that refused to run its own marketplace, leaving that to the federal government under a decision made by Gov. Bobby Jindal. The Republican strongly opposed the Democratic president's Affordable Care Act.
In a state where President Barack Obama's popularity is low and Republicans dominate state government, supporters of the health law Obama championed tried to educate the uninsured about the new availability of insurance.
Democratic Rep. Cedric Richmond of New Orleans circulated emails and links to online sign-up instructions.
Supporters of the health care law lamented the refusal by Louisiana's Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal and the conservative Legislature to expand Medicaid eligibility in the state to allow more working poor to qualify for free coverage.
"Many of our state's neediest citizens will still be left without basic health coverage because they are too poor to qualify for federal subsidies," said Jan Moller, director of the Louisiana Budget Project, an independent policy group. "The intent of the health-care law was for this population - those with incomes below the federal poverty line - to be covered by Medicaid. But the governor and the Legislature unfortunately refused the opportunity to cover 400,000 low-income adults while also saving money in the state budget."

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