Traffic Reports: High Volume Causes Health Insurance Shoppers To Face Delays

Across the country, states reported computer problems and long wait times as consumers tried to check out the new insurance options available through the health law's online insurance marketplaces. At the same time, though, many states reported tallies of applications and hits that exceeded expectations.

Politico: Glitches And Recoveries: State Exchanges Run The Gamut
Despite the early troubles, a few states were quick to report the number of enrollment and consumer interactions throughout the day, showing consumers had been waiting for the rollout. Kentucky’s state-run exchange, known as Kynect, reported processing more than 1,000 applications by morning. Connecticut’s exchange, Access Health CT, said 18,000 people logged into its site, and dozens signed up on the first day. But right up to launch day, some insurers continued to report problems with the federal computer system’s ability to accurately produce plan premiums and to match those premiums with the subsidy a consumer might be eligible for. That’s essential. It’s what determines the price someone would pay for a particular plan (Millman and Norman, 10/2).

Los Angeles Times: Demand Is Strong As Obamacare Enrollment Starts In California
Kicking off a historic health care expansion, California's new insurance market stumbled out of the gate with computer glitches, long hold times and an online enrollment delay for small businesses. Still, many consumers rushed to get coverage Tuesday when enrollment opened nationwide as part of President Obama's Affordable Care Act. It was a rocky start for many government-run insurance exchanges across the country as computers froze and online enrollment was postponed for several hours. In California, officials nonetheless took heart at the stronger-than-expected response: about 5 million online hits and more than 17,000 calls (Terhune, Mason and Reston, 10/1).

The Sacramento Bee: Californians Fight Tech Troubles To Buy Health Insurance
Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee, whose state was the first to establish an exchange, characterized the commencement of the program as a historic marker for the nation that signals health care as a right, not a privilege. At a launch event in Rancho Cordova, with a countdown clock and celebratory music, Lee described the nascent health program as nimble, innovative, self-sustaining and reflective of the state’s diversity. “This is a day when for millions, dreams come true,” Lee said. “This is a day when people finally will have access to quality, affordable health care that cannot be denied and cannot be taken away.” Access wasn’t easy for everyone on Tuesday. A landing page on the Covered California website took several minutes to load. Clicking through to the next step brought additional delays (Cadelago, 10/1).

The New York Times: New York State Health Dept. Has Heavy Traffic On First Day
Like those in several other states, the Web site for New York State’s health exchange – nystateofhealth.ny.gov – was having difficulty Tuesday, the first day of enrollment, because of a crush of traffic. Visitors were walked through the familiar first steps of any online enrollment: Provide your name, your e-mail and a password, and retype some scrambled characters from the image provided (Hartocollis and Kaminer, 10/1).

The Wall Street Journal: New York Health Insurance Exchange Launches
Thousands of New Yorkers struggled Tuesday as they sought to use a balky new website that hosts the state's new health-insurance exchange, but officials pledged to fix the bugs and took heart that the site received unexpectedly high traffic on its first day. … The state's online marketplace, which opened for business as enrollment for insurance under the federal Affordable Care Act began around the U.S., was receiving upgrades to handle more traffic late Tuesday, Ms. Frescatore said. The website recorded more than 10 million hits, while about 9,000 people were able to shop. The site counts every hit, regardless of whether someone was able to get onto the site, a spokesman said (Dawsey, 10/1).

Pioneer Press: Minnesota’s Online Health Exchange Goes Live; Other States Having Problems
Minnesota successfully launched its online link to the federal Affordable Care Act on Tuesday afternoon, with initial numbers suggesting sizable interest in coverage that's available through the new health insurance exchange marketplace. Earlier in the day, the federal government and more than a dozen other states also launched new websites, with some shutting down for periods as they struggled to handle an influx of traffic (Snowbeck, 10/1).

Minnesota Public Radio: With A Few Glitches, MNsure Goes Live
The Minnesota system isn't without problems. MNsure officials say none of the network of groups chosen to help consumers will be certified to provide help until Wednesday at the earliest. Alycia Riedl, president of the MN Association of Health Underwriters, said members of her group have serious concerns about being able to help people use MNsure in the way they're used to - over the phone. Many brokers who have completed the MNsure training have yet to receive certification from MNsure to help consumers. Even when they are, it will be difficult for brokers to help clients unless they do it in person, Riedl said. That's because a quirk in the MNsure system won't allow a broker to set up an account for a client over the phone. "The MNsure website for individual consumers does not have functionality for an assister to help someone set up an account, guide them through the system, seeing what they see, helping them when they need it," Riedl said (Richert, 10/1).

The Star Tribune: MNsure Health Insurance Exchange Gets Off To A Halting Start
Within the first hour, more than 500 accounts were created, but MNsure officials couldn’t say whether anyone bought policies. A server that helped consumers set up accounts went down early on, which spawned griping on social media from some frustrated users. But MNsure executive director April Todd-Malmlov, who made the final keystrokes to launch the exchange, said it mostly handled the volume, which registered as many as 3,000 people at one time (Crosby and Olson, 10/2).

The Oregonian: Cover Oregon: New Health Exchange Swamped By 80,000 Online Visitors
More than 80,000 people visited Cover Oregon Tuesday as the new health exchange opened its online doors for consumers to comparison shop among insurance plans. But technical problems gummed up operations for many users seeking to enroll under new provisions of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. And for now, state employees, not the automated website, will check eligibility for new income-based tax credits and other government assistance."This is day one," said Liz Baxter, chair of the Cover Oregon board of directors. "It is the beginning of a new venture. It is not the end point” (Budnick, 10/1).

The Arizona Republic: Health Markets Swamped On Day 1
Workers at Meritus, a newly created health-insurance cooperative, answered a study stream of calls and inquiries from potential customers. Like Blue Cross Blue Shield, Meritus also had trouble connecting with the federal marketplace, but the company worked to get information for its customers. Meritus CEO Kathleen Oestreich said one customer sought answers on behalf of his wife, who was on hold waiting for federal marketplace operators to answer her questions. Meritus sales representatives were able to relay information the couple needed via instant messaging. “We are trying to be a source of help for people with hands-on customer service and answering questions,” Oestreich said (Alltucker and Reinhart, 10/1).

The CT Mirror: Connecticut's Uninsured Begin Shopping For Obamacare Coverage
Access Health’s call center took 1,930 calls Tuesday. And 167 applications were processed -- 83 for private health insurance for customers who will get federal subsidies to lower their premium costs, and 84 for Medicaid coverage. The day wasn’t without glitches, although officials said they didn’t go beyond what was expected. Many people reported problems accessing the Access Health website early in the day. And Elly Banos, who tried to sign up during an afternoon enrollment fair hosted by Community Health Center Inc., hit a roadblock when she tried to create an account on the Access Health website. Instead of letting her proceed, the system froze, a problem that plagued the others trying to sign up at the enrollment fair. Still, Banos was heartened that she’d gotten started toward getting coverage. “At least I got my foot in the door,” she said (Becker, 10/1).

North Carolina Health News: Obamacare Rollout Bumpy, Busy In N.C.
More than three-and-a-half years after being passed into law, the Affordable Care Act finally allows consumers to sign up for health insurance (Hoban, 10/2).

The Denver Post: Colorado’s New Obamacare Exchange Web Site Experiences High Volume
Affordable Care Act reforms in Colorado hit a speed bump just hours after launch Tuesday, with a primary website telling consumers they couldn't create accounts because of overwhelming volume. Connect for Health Colorado officials said the glitch was fixed within hours and added they had anticipated worse computer problems than those that surfaced (Booth, 10/1).

Philly.com: Health Insurance Exchanges Open, Users Can’t Get In
As the much-anticipated new online insurance exchanges opened Tuesday, many users have had to wait longer than expected to sign up for health care due to heavy traffic on the federal website…For the other states that are running their own exchanges – such as Rhode Island, California and New Mexico – their websites experienced delays as well (Mennen, 10/1).

The Baltimore Sun: Maryland Health Insurance Exchange Stumbles Out Of The Gate
Bill Kammerzell of Annapolis hoped to enroll in an insurance plan under health reform first thing Tuesday morning but the state's website crashed. The state marketplace where the uninsured could start buying health plans began having problems immediately after its scheduled 8 a.m. launch. Delays continued all day with people still unable to get onto the site by early evening (Walker and Dance, 10/1).

The New York Times: Health Insurers Report High Volume Of Queries On Health Care Coverage
"We are up and running," said one health insurance company official on Tuesday, even as the Web sites for many of the state marketplaces, and for www.healthcare.gov, the source of information about the health plans being run by the federal government, seemed plagued by technical problems. Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina reported that it was experiencing higher volumes of calls and online queries regarding coverage than usual, as well as more visits to its retail stores (Abelson, 10/1).

In related news -

The Wall Street Journal: Massachusetts Officials Try To Keep New Rules From Curbing Enrollment
As open enrollment for the U.S. health law kicks off nationwide, the state that helped inspire the law is trying to avoid a potential pitfall: watching its own coverage numbers slip. Massachusetts, where a 2006 law created a marketplace where uninsured people could shop for coverage, sometimes with state subsidies, estimates 97% of its 6.6 million residents have insurance. But because of different federal rules, roughly 150,000 people who got coverage through the state's exchange marketplace will have to re-enroll to avoid losing coverage next year, state officials said. Until now, their coverage automatically carried over (Kamp, 10/1).

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