National Health Insurance Exchange Starts with a (Broken) Bang

Health Insurance Exchanges Start with a (Broken) Bang

The nationwide Health Insurance Exchange opened for business today, but many applicants ran into problems that prevented them from signing up for health coverage.

Those trying to sign up on were getting different error messages, including one warning the “system is down”.  Another error message appeared, saying too many people are flooding the site.

Obama administration officials went into full tech support mode, saying they were aware of the problems and were working on them.

“We have built a dynamic system and are prepared to make adjustments as needed and improve the consumer experience,” DHS spokeswoman Joanne Peters said. “Consumers who need help can also contact the call center, use the live chat function, or go to to find an in-person assistor in their community.”

The problems were not a surprise.  In the days prior to the system’s launch, there was a flood of reports indicating the sites would likely be hit by glitches on the first day of business.

Some expressed concern that the technical glitches could turn people off from signing up, and are likely to fuel more Republican attacks on President Obama’s signature health care law.

For weeks, insurance companies, consultants and others warned of computer system flaws at both the state and federal levels.  Sixteen states and Washington, DC chose to build their own state-based marketplaces, while 34 states left all or part of the task to the federal government.

Administration officials said very large and complex families won’t be able to receive immediate online eligibility determinations, nor will nonparent caretakers.  Those applications require reams of paperwork, and many weeks to process.


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