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Public exchanges insist they’re alive

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State-run public exchange managers say reports of their online deaths have been greatly exaggerated.

Many of the exchange enrollment sites are crashing, freezing or simply down for maintenance, but tens of thousands of consumers have still managed to apply for coverage, exchange officials say.

Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, said today at a press conference that his exchange already has received 43,616 individual and family coverage applications and processed 16,311, and that the small-group exchange division is working with 400 small employers.

A flood of 59,003 telephone calls from Tuesday through Friday led to long wait times at first, but the call centers whittled the average wait time down to 4 minutes by Friday, even though reps are spending an average of about 16 minutes per call, Lee said.

Lee blasted the media focus on system glitches and suggested they’re trying those horror stories to derail the exchange program.

Other state exchange managers also released preliminary enrollment numbers.

New York state officials estimate their exchange enrolled about 40,000 people.

In Washington, exchange managers said they’ve processed 10,497 applications and already completed the processing needed to enroll 9,452 people in coverage – including 916 people in commercial exchange plan coverage.

In Kentucky, the state-based kynect system has received 14,755 completed applications and enrolled 6,946 people in coverage.

In Maryland, officials reported residents there created 13,532 exchange accounts and submitted 566 applications with eligibility determinations expected by Sunday.

Meanwhile,, the enrollment site for the PPACA exchanges run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, appeared to be getting better at letting users set up accounts but has continued to have trouble allowing users to use the accounts to shop for coverage.

In Florida, Lloyd Robinson, a West Palm Beach, Fla., insurance broker certified to sell coverage there, and supports the exchange program, said he wish the managers of the “federally facilitated” exchanges that serve states like Florida would encourage more consumers to talk to agents and brokers.

That would help consumers get information and take pressure off the website, Robinson said.

Robinson said he’s already getting about seven to 10 consumer questions about exchange coverage per day, mostly because of his own efforts to promote himself online.

Many of the consumers who call Robinson are so confused that they think the “Affordable Care Act” is a different – and much better program – than Obamacare.

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