Directors: ObamaCare storefronts working

Storefronts for ObamaCare coverage are panning out well this year as a way to bring in customers to the exchanges, state officials from around the country said Wednesday.

California and Kentucky exchange directors said they're relying on storefronts more heavily this year to connect shoppers with individual help navigating the marketplaces.

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California has more than 300 agent and community storefronts assisting with enrollment, said Covered California Chief Deputy Executive Director Yolanda Richardson.

While Kentucky has just one location, Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange Director Carrie Banahan said the storefront has received nearly 5,000 visitors.

"They appreciate they have somewhere to go and get their questions answered," Banahan said on a call hosted by FamiliesUSA, an advocacy group. "We're off to a great start."

The call gave officials with state-run exchanges a chance to update journalists about the first month of 2015 open enrollment.

Directors said interest has been strong, though none was able to say how many people have actively renewed their coverage or what kinds of people are signing up for plans for the first time.

"The demographics, I don't know if there is any way of knowing at this particular point," said Richardson.

Storefronts for exchange coverage are one way exchanges are ramping up consumer support this year. While some systems have continued to struggle with technical glitches, including Washington's, many exchanges now have time to focus on making their outreach more sophisticated and approachable.

Officials with the New York and Washington Health Benefit Exchanges said they are also focused on giving shoppers the ability to buy coverage in person.

In Washington, the marketplace is holding pop-up events at shopping malls, sometimes several in one day around the state, while in New York, officials are preparing to announce a shopping mall tour around the state.

The administration has taken a similar approach by promoting coverage at malls owned and operated by the Westfield Group around the country this year.