WEDNESDAY, Oct. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Health insurance exchanges
from Florida to Hawaii got off to a rough start Tuesday as many
consumers encountered long delays and computer system snafus.
In 34 states where the federal government is running the
exchanges, the troubles surfaced early in what was the first day of
sign up for insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
Consumers got error messages on their computers, were unable to
review health plan options or couldn't enroll online.
In Florida, many visitors to the federal government's website
HealthCare.gov were unable to create accounts to shop for health
plans and enroll, the
Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and
Medicaid Services, assured reporters during a late Tuesday
afternoon press conference that the glitch had been fixed.
But reports of problems persisted throughout the day. And by 8
a.m. EST Wednesday morning, a visitor to HealthCare.gov looking to
compare plans or enroll in coverage still encountered this message:
"We have a lot of visitors on the site right now. Please stay on
this page. We're working to make the experience better, and we
don't want you to lose your place in line. We'll send you to the
login page as soon as we can. Thanks for your patience!"
The scope of the problems, however, suggested that the
controversial law -- which triggered an historic clash between
Republicans and Democrats that produced the government shutdown on
Tuesday -- could be just what the doctor ordered for many Americans
The initial interest in exploring coverage options hinted at
pent-up demand for just the kind of coverage now being offered, the
But states running their own exchanges also had problems. Among
CMS officials would not say how many people were able to enroll
in an insurance plan through HealthCare.gov on Tuesday.
"This is day one of a process. We're in a marathon, not a sprint, and we need your help," Tavenner, the CMS administrator, said.
According to a report in
The New York Times, federal officials said more than 2.8
million people had visited the government website on Tuesday.
The rollout of the exchanges, or marketplaces, marks a key step
in expanding access to health insurance for millions of uninsured
Americans beginning in 2014. Under the law, most people without
insurance face the prospect of a fine.
Once fully operational, the exchanges are intended to make it
easier for people who are uninsured or have limited coverage to
shop for health coverage. And consumers with low and modest incomes
may qualify for federal tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies to
reduce their monthly premiums and out-of-pocket costs.
"Now keep in mind that while this is the first day you can sign up, it is certainly not the last," Tavenner reminded consumers.
Open enrollment runs through March 31, 2014. Consumers who want
coverage that would be effective Jan. 1, 2014, must enroll by Dec.
Some 7 million people are expected to enroll in private health
coverage through the exchanges in 2014, according to estimates by
the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Another 9 million will
enroll in Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program,
according to the research outfit's projections.
Visit the official federal government website for details on
coverage under the
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