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ACA online Marketplaces overwhelmed by traffic, many crash

Oct. 2, 2013 at 5:43 PM   |   Comments

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BETHESDA, Md., Oct. 2 (UPI) -- The federal website where uninsured adults from 36 states can buy health insurance had 4.7 million unique visits in its first 24 hours, officials say.

The Affordable Care Act Internet marketplace -- also referred to as exchanges -- had a surge of cybershoppers Tuesday trying to log on, register, browse or purchase one of 54 health insurance plans offered on the federal website -- as well as on several state websites that offer insurance plans for uninsured residents.

Health officials had warned of "glitches" during the open enrollment of the Affordable Care Act, which began Tuesday, but the biggest problem was the millions trying to access the marketplace websites -- resulting in websites being crashed, frozen and clogged.

"Americans successfully enrolled through HealthCare.gov and state-based Marketplaces on day 1," U.S. Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Fabien Levy said in a statement. "Volume at HealthCare.gov continues to be high, in the first 24 hours, our call center receiving more than 190,000 calls and more than 104,000 web chats requested.

"We expect to see similar volume Tuesday, and while this overwhelming interest is continuing to cause wait times, there will be continuing improvements in the coming hours and days."

Federal officials have not disclosed how many people purchased health insurance plans Tuesday.

California officials said the state's exchange had received about 5 million visits on its website by 3 p.m. Tuesday, while New York state, which also created its own Affordable Care Act online marketplace -- nystateofhealth.ny.gov -- received 10 million visits from 8 a.m.- 5 p.m. Tuesday, far more than anticipated, and far more than the 2.2 million uninsured New Yorkers.

New York State of Health Executive Director Donna Frescatore said in a statement more than 9,000 New Yorkers were able to shop successfully for insurance Tuesday, the Albany Times Union reported.

"Operators at the state's call center have assisted thousands of callers while our technicians have increased the site's capacity and are looking into the cause of this abnormally high traffic," Frescatore said.

New York officials had estimated about 1.1 million people would buy health insurance through the online marketplace by 2016.

Kentucky's marketplace, the Kynect, processed more than 1,000 applications for insurance by 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, and 24,000 visited the website to browse the insurance rates, The Washington Post reported.

"It is a higher volume than we expected and it has caused a few technical issues," Jill Midkiff, a spokeswoman in Kentucky's Cabinet for Health and Family Services, told the Post.

Exchange officials in Colorado, Oregon and Washington had an announced before Tuesday's first day of the online marketplace that some features of their websites wouldn't be ready, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Melissa Martinez of Davis, Calif., said she was diagnosed with Lupus 19 years ago, and the mother of two said the last time she had health insurance it cost her $600 a month, but her medication for Lupus cost her $600 a month so she chose to pay for the medication and drop her health insurance, Valley Public Radio reported.

For the past three years, Martinez, 41, said she paid to see her doctors, and bought her prescriptions from Canada, but she said she feared health problems she couldn't anticipate such as accidents, or another serious illness.

Because of her illness, Martinez's income was limited to $30,000 last year. She was eligible for several plans and she chose a silver plan with a premium of about a $100 dollars a month, and a $500 deductible.

"A $100 dollars a month, versus $600 is amazing," Martinez told the radio station.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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