Affordable Care Act

Insurance exchanges open

health data

Open enrollment began Oct. 1 for people seeking coverage under the 2010 health care law, as much of the federal government was in the process of shutting down. The system, which offers insurance plans in 36 states and links to state-run exchanges elsewhere, groaned under the weight of heavy traffic.

Error messages, crashes, long waits for service, and other glitches were observed on a widespread basis the morning of the launch, as early adopters of the law informally known as Obamacare rushed to apply for benefits.

Officials, including President Barack Obama, advised patience. "Now, like every new law, every new product roll-out, there are going to be some glitches in the sign-up process along the way that we will fix," Obama said in a Rose Garden event. Obama compared the launch bugs to a defect in an iPhone operating system rollout – the same comparison offered by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in remarks to reporters as the day before.

About a million visitors logged onto during the early hours of the launch, according to HHS spokesperson Joanne Peters. "We have built a dynamic system and expect to speed up the system in the coming hours," she said.

Some visitors were greeted with notifications of delay. "We have a lot of visitors on our site right now and we're working to make your experience here better. Please wait here until we send you to the login page. Thanks for your patience!" read one message.

The performance of the sites did appear to improve as the day wore on. The federal exchange and the states that build their own exchanges were able to register users.

Republican critics of the law, who are looking to defund or delay it as a condition of reopening the government, were not impressed.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the Government Oversight and Reform Committee, complained that, "Americans are attempting to purchase health insurance on Obamacare exchanges and are being met with crashing websites, missing price information, confusing forms and in some cases, exchanges that had to delay their start date because they aren't ready yet."

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), an opponent of the law who vowed to register for the health insurance exchanges on day one, posted a photo on Twitter of an error message he received. Bob Hanson, a spokesman for the Kansas Insurance Department told Reuters that officials in that state are asking people to wait before signing up. "There are going to be glitches. We're advising people to wait a week or two."

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy, health IT and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mr. Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian started his career as an arts reporter and critic, and has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, Architect magazine, and other publications. He was an editorial assistant and staff writer at the now-defunct New York Press and arts editor at the online network in the 1990s, and was a weekly contributor of music and film reviews to the Washington Times from 2007 to 2014.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.

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