BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Insurance companies are seeing an uptick in the small number of people in Louisiana signing up for health insurance plans through the federally run marketplace, but enrollments remain low as people have trouble accessing the website.
Twelve people have purchased an insurance plan through the online marketplace with Vantage Health Plan, one of four insurance companies offering plans to Louisiana residents through the marketplace, which was created through the federal health care overhaul.
Vantage spokesman Billy Justice said the low figure wasn't surprising.
He said traffic on the website is extremely busy, and he noted that the enrollment period that opened last week runs through March. Justice, director of marketing and sales for the Monroe-based company, said people are sifting through their options, but not buying just yet.
"They've got six months to do this," he said Wednesday. "I didn't expect to have 5,000 people sign up on Day 1. People are shopping through the website. Could it be better? Yes. But it's not that bad."
The marketplace offers health insurance options for people who are uninsured or who currently pay for individual policies, rather than getting insurance through their jobs.
Federal subsidies are available to many low- and middle-income families to help cover costs. At the same time, people need to enroll in an insurance plan by mid-February or face fines under the health care law.
Rochelle Payne, an uninsured, part-time professor at Southern University in Baton Rouge, has been trying to buy health insurance since the marketplace opened Oct. 1. She's been unsuccessful, but she's not discouraged.
"I'll just keep trying. I'm not giving up — because I need it," Payne said.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is offering insurance plans through the marketplace around the state. The company wouldn't say how many people have enrolled.
Last week, Blue Cross said it had received a "small number" of submissions from the marketplace and hundreds of purchase requests through their sales agents waiting in queues to be entered into the website as technical issues were resolved.
"We are continuing to get submissions," company spokesman John Maginnis said.
He said Blue Cross has noticed "incremental improvement" with the website.
Louisiana is among the states that refused to run its own marketplace, leaving that to the federal government under a decision made by Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal. Jindal and the Legislature have also refused to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid eligibility in the state to allow more working poor to qualify for free coverage.