As of Tuesday, Delaware says 136 people have enrolled for health care under the Affordable Care Act, up from the 97 reported yesterday by U.S. Health and Human Services.

Delaware Health and Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf presented the updated enrollment numbers while briefing a state health care panel, Thursday, during its monthly meeting in Dover. The discrepancy is attributed to a lag between the state and the federal government as well as a difference in dates. Landgraf says the federal government's tally ended exactly one month after the rollout of Obamacare, whereas the state's tally went to Nov. 12.

Delaware's anemic numbers in week seven of Obamacare's 26-week open enrollment period reflect the many performance issues and frustrations linked to the federal health insurance website, Healthcare.gov.

"The complications of that website did present some extreme challenges for the consumers, as well as for us," Landgraf said. "I also think that we have until March 31st to support individuals through that enrollment." 

Delaware is one of 34 states with marketplaces supported by or fully-run by the federal government. A decision Landgraf said was made because data showed a state/federal partnership was more cost-effective for the state and for individual consumers.

The secretary suspects when Nov. 30 rolls around, when the federal health insurance website's glitches are supposed to be fixed, participation numbers will improve significantly, with more robust participation during the last two to four weeks of open enrollment which ends March 31, 2014.

Obama allows old plans

DHSS Secretary Rita Landgraf's presentation to the Delaware Health Care Commission came about an hour after President Barack Obama announced a one-year extension for current policies that otherwise would be canceled under Obamacare; though senior administration officials said they could be extended if problems with the law persist.

"The magnitude of it is extremely huge at this level and it’s multi-faceted," Landgraf said. "I think what we’re seeing right now occurring is what are these things that are going to require fixes and then how do we address these fixes? Is it an update of the law, is it [an] administrative fix?"

Landgraf added, "I would encourage individuals to remember the main intent was indeed to afford those without health insurance the ability to access health insurance," pointing out that population numbers around 90,000 in Delaware.

Doors for efficiency

Secretary Landgraf used her time before the Health Care Commission to walk the panel through alternate paths health care shoppers, depending on their eligibility, can utilize while the federal site works out its kinks.

For those who qualify for Medicaid, Landgraf says people can apply for coverage through DHSS' existing ASSIST program, bypassing Healthcare.gov altogether.

Despite its partnership status with the federal government, Landgraf said the state felt it was critical it create its own website, ChooseHealthDE.com, to provide information. There, she says, consumers can compare plans so they're well versed when the federal exchange is back up and running at full speed at the end of this month. 

The final portal is to contact the insurer directly. "If you don’t require a subsidy or tax credit, shop on ChooseHealthDE, you know do your window shopping and then contact your carrier that you believe best meets your needs," Landgraf said.

Dates to remember

Nov. 30, 2013 is when an improved, bug-free federal health insurance marketplace is expected to be up and running

Dec. 15, 2013 is the last day to enroll for coverage beginning Jan. 1, 2014

March 31, 2014 is when you must have minimum essential coverage to avoid a penalty

Federal health officials announced yesterday 106,185 people have selected plans from state and federal health insurance marketplaces in the first month of enrollment.