Local counselors, uninsured wait as marketplace glitches continue

Online marketplace opened October 1

LA CROSSE, WI - The online marketplaces, where people can shop for health insurance, opened nationwide Tuesday - but here in Wisconsin and in several other states, glitches marred their launches.

Counselors at Saint Clare Health Mission in La Crosse were trained and ready to help people enroll in the health insurance exchange, but because Wisconsin's marketplace refused to load in its entireity, they haven't even seen the full website yet.

"We've waited for this a long time," said Saint Clare Clinic Director Sandy Brekke. "But it's pretty much what we anticipated. We knew on the very first day, there would be a lot of activity on the site. Today is the first opportunity anybody's ever had to look through it."

Employees at Saint Clare Health Mission scrolled through different error pages for hours as they tried to explore the site, and as of 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, they still hadn't been able to get through. Gundersen Health Systems enlisted 100 people to navigate the site, and all were unable to due to the glitches.

But according to Brekke, it's only a matter of time before the bugs are worked out.


"As the weeks and the months come, people are gonna be more proficient in it, it's going to make more sense and it'll be a much easier process to go through," she said.

Others aren't so optimistic.

Joe Pierce, a patient at Saint Clare and one of Wisconsin's thousands of uninsured residents, was unimpressed with the marketplace's performance - or lack thereof - on its first day.

He was planning to enroll through the marketplace Tuesday and had high hopes for its success. But between a federal showdown over the government shutdown and error screen after error screen, he's skeptical for the future of the online exchange.

"It looks good on paper, but when you actually do it and to make it happen, it's a completely different story," Pierce said. "Now, myself and a lot of people have lost faith in the fact that the government is actually going to do this."

Brekke and other Saint Clare workers said they expect the site to be up and running smoothy, and soon - but Pierce isn't so sure it's worth the wait.

"The concept of it is wonderful," he said. "But the road to hell is paved on good intentions."

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