users can now browse plans without registering

By Elizabeth Campbell - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Health insurance companies as well as designers of are certainly aware of potential problems with the website -- so many that the developers were called to testify before a Congressional committee on Thursday.

While glitches in the Oct. 1 launch were not a total surprise, experts say they didn't know just how bad the glitches would be.

Due to the problems enrolling online, earlier this week the site was adjusted so people are able to browse plans without actually registering.  Visitors can now view options without giving any personal information.

Health care expert Carolyn McClanahan said that option is great for health care browsers.

The website is still making improvements, and because of that McClanahan said the "see plans now" option is great. She said applying online and by phone can still be hit or miss, but because there is still plenty of time to sign up, she said being able to browse options without actually registering is what she recommends people do.

"We've already seen a big improvement," McClanahan said. "You can log into the website and look at the prices. So that's a great step forward. And in the coming weeks, ideally the website will communicate with insurance companies and with IRS, which is how your income eligibility for tax credits gets determined, and all that will be working smoothly. That's the ideal picture."

With the "see plans now" option, users are able to see what options they are eligible for without giving personal information. The website will ask for generic information like what state people live in, what county they live in, their age bracket, and which benefits are important to them.

McClanahan said the website will then categorize users in one of five levels of insurance plans ranging from catastrophic to platinum. The plans range from less than $100 a month to more than $500, all depending on how people are categorized. McClanahan said the website is gradually improving and people are finally signing up. She adds that there's no need to panic yet.

"The good news is a website will be fixed eventually, all of this will be passed, everyone will be able to log on," she said. "And one thing people don't realize is you still can go through insurance agencies to buy these policies, so it's not that big of a deal right now, but it will be in the future if they don't get it fixed."

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