Begich says he enrolled online

JUNEAU — U.S. Sen. Mark Begich said he successfully enrolled Monday in a health insurance plan through the online marketplace open to Alaskans, shirking a congressional benefit.

Going the route he did, Begich said he gave up an employer contribution of 75 percent of his premium, which members of Congress are eligible to receive if they enroll through a Washington, D.C., marketplace. The first-term Democrat, who has been a supporter of the federal health care law and who faces re-election next year, said he wanted to have the same experience as other Alaskans and felt it was only fair to enroll the way he did.

While there have been problems with the online marketplace since its Oct. 1 launch, Begich told The Associated Press that he had no problems completing his enrollment Monday, which he has said was the first day members of Congress could pick plans.

Begich said he has seen a marked improvement — including changes in the speed and information available — in the last five to 10 days. He said the difference between now and the first week of the launch is like “day and night.”

The online marketplace is intended to allow individuals to browse their options for private insurance to be in compliance with the federal health care law. People can shop and sign up on their own, as Begich did, or with help, like that of a broker.

Late last month, Enroll Alaska, a broker established to help sign Alaskans up for health insurance under the health care law, said it was suspending enrollments through the website until problems were fixed. One issue was with the calculator used to determine if individuals qualified for income-based subsidies.

Begich said he was told by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that as of Monday morning, the subsidy calculator for Alaska was working.

“There should be no reason now people should have any problems,” he said.

Enroll Alaska chief operating officer Tyann Boling said Monday afternoon that she had not yet received confirmation that the issue had been corrected and would not resume enrollments through the site until that confirmation is received.

Begich said he has brought to the White House concerns he’s had with the site and will continue to monitor the site for problems.

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