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Available On Air Stations Glitches Lead Many To Rely On Pen And Paper


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block. It's time now for All Tech Considered.


BLOCK: Forget technology for the moment, good old pen and paper is the way many Americans are now signing up for the new health insurance exchanges. That's because of problems that continue to plague the website that was supposed to be a one-stop shop for health coverage.

NPR's Elise Hu has been covering the rocky rollout of these exchanges. And, Elise, where do things stand with today?

ELISE HU, BYLINE: Well, it's hard to know because the Obama administration is still not releasing numbers on just how many people have gotten all the way through that sign up process. Now, for the last two weeks, however, we do know that those who have tried to sign up online have run into long wait times, temporary outages, errors galore. So both applicants and insurers are telling us now that dead tree version - paper - has proven most reliable for now.

BLOCK: Most reliable, but still it just seems that filling out a paper application and getting that into the system is going to take much longer and complicate everything.

HU: Sure. And some states that are running their own exchanges are still actively discouraging paper. But I think for a lot of folks struggling to apply with the main federal exchange, paper is just a way to get all the way through the application process.

BLOCK: So, if more and more people are turning to paper applications, Elise, there still has to come a point when those are put into a computer system.

HU: That's right. And interestingly, the federal government might be better prepared for paper than they were for the online applications. There's a contractor called Serco got a $1 billion contract over the summer to process an expected six million paper applications. But the failure of the website enrollment right now could mean a lot more.

BLOCK: OK, NPR's Elise Hu. Elise, thanks.

HU: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Elise Hu is a host-at-large based at NPR West in Culver City, Calif. Previously, she explored the future with her video series, Future You with Elise Hu, and served as the founding bureau chief and International Correspondent for NPR's Seoul office. She was based in Seoul for nearly four years, responsible for the network's coverage of both Koreas and Japan, and filed from a dozen countries across Asia.
As special correspondent and guest host of NPR's news programs, Melissa Block brings her signature combination of warmth and incisive reporting. Her work over the decades has earned her journalism's highest honors, and has made her one of NPR's most familiar and beloved voices.