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11/19/2013

Botched Obamacare launch damages trust in program.

Botched Obamacare launch damages trust in program.

More proof of the rocky launch of Obamacare came in numbers out of the Sunflower State.

According to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, just 371 Kansans managed to select a private health insurance plan through the federally run online marketplace.

HHS also said the insurance exchange had 6,061 completed applications from Kansas from Oct. 1 to Nov. 2, seeking coverage for 12,205 people. Of those people, 3,009, or 24.6 percent, were eligible to receive federal subsidies to help them pay their premiums.

Of course, it was easy to see why so many Kansans were eager to visit the online insurance marketplace, as an estimated 363,000 of the state's 2.8 million residents have no health insurance.

But slow-loading and frozen computer screens, password snags and other technical glitches in the rollout of the federal website kept many would-be participants from using the online marketplace.

While technology should have made the process as user-friendly as possible, poor planning and execution marred the otherwise welcome opening phase of an Affordable Care Act for Americans in need of health coverage.

Naturally, the mess gave Republican opponents of the law an opportunity to pile on and step up demands to scrap the plan.

That won't happen. Strong interest in the Affordable Care Act from the day of the launch of www.healthcare.gov proved a pressing need nationwide.

The Kansas Insurance Department had encouraged consumers to wait to enroll in a plan so that HHS could work out glitches. People must select a plan by Dec. 15 if they want coverage for all of 2014.

Unfortunately, the botched rollout made a bad situation worse for many. And now, a fear is in damaged trust. How good could the program be if it's so difficult for interested consumers to sign up?

Former Kansas governor and current HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and her department have much work to do in fixing the site and restoring public confidence.

Let's hope they go about remedying the glitches with far more attention to detail than displayed in giving many Americans their first contact with Obamacare.

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