The open enrollment period for purchasing health insurance through health exchanges kicks off this Saturday, November 15, and runs through February 15, 2015. After a bumpy launch of and an even bumpier re-launch of the Massachusetts Health Connector last year, state and federal officials are predicting (and hoping) this year will run much more smoothly.

What’s in store for this year’s open enrollment period?

Overcoming Last Year’s Technical Glitches

Anyone who lives in Massachusetts knows that the Connector essentially didn’t function during last year’s open enrollment period. But after millions of dollars in investments in technology and staff, the state says that this year will be different. Connector officials told the Boston Business Journal that they’ve conducted 6,000 tests with a success rate of 98 percent. That’s probably good news to the 300,000 citizens of the Commonwealth who were placed temporarily on Medicaid last year as a result of the site’s technical problems.

The federal health exchange,, has also made some notable improvements. This year, the site opened a few days early to allow consumers to “window shop” for plans before the official enrollment period launched. In addition, shoppers will only have to enter their zip code to browse plans, rather than being required to create an account and answer a series of questions first.

Changing Rates

The Kaiser Family Foundation released an analysis of 2015 premium changes on the health insurance marketplaces. They looked at premium changes for plans in 15 states and Washington D.C. that have released rates for all insurers and discovered that individuals will generally pay slightly less to enroll in the second-lowest cost plan in 2015 than they did in 2014. Rate changes ranged from increases of as much as 8.7% to declines of as much as 15.6%

Lowering Expectations

Earlier this week, HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced that her office is expecting 9.1 million customers to enroll in 2015 through the federal and state exchanges. That’s significantly lower than the Congressional Budget Office’s earlier projection of 13 million. What’s to blame for the lower expectation? Administration officials say this is a more realistic assessment of how quickly a new program can grow. Opponents say this is just another indicator that the Affordable Care Act isn’t working. Only time will tell.

We’ll be keeping an eye on the headlines as the exchanges open for business. What are your predictions for this open enrollment season?