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HealthCare Checkup

The Seattle Times health-care team tracks the local impact of the Affordable Care Act.

September 25, 2013 at 5:01 PM

Six days out, state officials confident exchange is ready for launch

Officials in charge of operating the state’s new online insurance marketplace expressed confidence today that the exchange will be ready to “go live” as scheduled on Oct. 1, now just six days away.

Richard Onizuka, CEO of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, said the new marketplace, called Washington Healthplanfinder, will be “fully open for business” next Tuesday, starting at 7:30 a.m.

“People will be able to access the website” starting Day One, said Onizuka, answering a question that has been on many people’s minds as the launch date draws closer.

Onizuka also said federal officials have reviewed Healthplanfinder and given it “the green light.”

He was one of several Exchange officials who reported on operational readiness at the exchange board’s meeting today, the last before the launch of Healthplanfinder next week.

The reports from exchange officials were positive across the board. Chief Information Officer Curt Kwak said the final technical issues with Healthplanfinder were resolved last week.

“Our system is literally locked and loaded,” Kwak told the board. “We are ready to pull the trigger.”

But Onizuka also acknowledged that the website won’t operate perfectly from the start.

“There are still things we are working on to make sure it’s optimal for the consumer,” he said.

For example, some “trouble spots” came up during consumer testing of the online application process, he said.

Less than half of the participants in that testing were able to complete the application within two hours, and it remains unclear how long it will take consumers, on average, to complete the application.

There are other questions that remain.

But board members were clearly pleased with the progress.

“I think we’re in tremendously good shape,” said board chair Margaret Stanley. “We’re as ready as we know how to be.”

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