Obamacare Exchanges Riddled With Glitches

Insurance web sites struggled on the first day that the new health programs opened to applicants

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Health Care Exchanges
Screen shots of several state exchange websites that were down or not yet operating Tuesday morning. 

Obamacare is off to a rocky start. State-based insurance exchange web sites scheduled to launch this morning were riddled with glitches, rendering many unusable.

The exchanges, or marketplaces, are where millions of uninsured Americans are expected to sign up for new health insurance plans and access federal subsidies to make coverage more affordable. An open enrollment period lasts until March 31, 2014, and the earliest new coverage can begin is Jan. 1, 2014, so there is time correct web site snafus. But widespread glitches have complicated the Obama Administration’s efforts to heavily promote the law the same day Republican opposition to the Affordable Care Act led to a shut down of other parts of the federal government.

Exchange homepages in the 34 states where the federally government is fully or partially running insurance marketplaces included one of two messages this morning: “The System is down at the moment” or “Please wait.” In a statement, the Department of Health and Human Services said that healthcare.gov had logged more than 1 million visits in just a few hours.

Many web sites run independently by states were also unusable this morning. New York’s exchange web site, nystateofhealth.ny.gov, at some points displayed an “internal server error” message. Exchange administrators blamed heavy traffic for the glitch, posting a message saying, “Due to overwhelming interest in the NY State of Health – including 2 million visits in the first 2 hours of the site launch – the health exchange is currently having log in issues. We encourage users who are unable to log in to come back to the site later when these issues will be resolved. traffic may have been responsible.”

The web site for Connecticut’s exchange, accesshealthct.com, either did not load at all or told users, “We appreciate your patience as we continue to launch our systems today. Don’t forget you have til Dec 15 to enroll for Jan 1 coverage!”

In Maryland, marylandhealthconnection.gov directed users to a “consumer update” that said, “The Consumer Support Center (toll-free call center) is presently experiencing unexpected connectivity problems. We expect to resolve these issues within the next hour. Thank you for patience.” Another update told Marylanders, “Thank you for visiting Maryland Health Connection. We are experiencing connectivity issues. Please visit the site again at 12 Noon.”

On Twitter, Huffington Post reporter Jason Cherkis reported at 10:27 a.m. Tuesday that:

[tweet https://twitter.com/jasoncherkis/status/385048242309718016%5D

But by 10:36 a.m., Cherkis tweeted an update:

[tweet https://twitter.com/jasoncherkis/status/385050511507865600%5D

In a statement, Joanne Peters, a spokeswoman for HHS said of the glitches, “We have built a dynamic system and are prepared to make adjustments as needed and improve the consumer experience.”

With reporting by Noah Rayman.