Oct 2 The U.S. government on Wednesday scrambled
to add computer capacity to handle an unexpectedly large number
of Americans logging onto new online insurance marketplaces
created under Present Barack Obama's healthcare reform law.
Technical glitches and heavy traffic slowed Tuesday's launch
of the marketplaces, particularly for the federal Healthcare.gov
website serving 36 states.
Administration officials said they expected bumps and
glitches as the national program to provide benefits to millions
of uninsured Americans rolls out under the 2010 Patient
Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.
Healthcare.gov website advised users on Wednesday to wait
for pages to load, rather than revisit the website, as they
added servers and streamlined the system to improve the
Delays and other problems also continued to plague
marketplaces run by states such as Maryland, whose website
cautioned visitors that some steps could take up to two minutes
to complete but left users stranded after more than an hour.
Healthcare.gov alone had about 4.7 million unique visits in
its first 24 hours, while a federal Obamacare call center
received more than 190,000 visits, according to the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services. Similar volumes were
expected for Wednesday.
To share your experience with the online exchanges, see: here
Officials and organizers were elated by the large numbers as
a sign of the demand for the new insurance plans, which will be
open for enrollment through March 31. But they predicted actual
enrollment would pick up slowly and probably peak in early 2014.
"Across the board, the interest is really overwhelming,"
said Anne Filipic, president of Enroll America, a private
nonprofit group aligned with the White House.
"The fact people are visiting a website or calling a hotline
to get information, that's the first step in a process to
compare your options, talk to friends and neighbors and
determine what makes the most sense," Filipic said.
Republican opponents of the law have warned for months of a
"train wreck" when the new exchanges opened, given the potential
for technical problems and even security breaches. They seized
on news of the glitches this week as proof the law should be
delayed, a demand that helped precipitate a partial shutdown of
the federal government.
An administration official said actual enrollment numbers
will be released regularly but not beginning until mid-November.
The White House has also been working to make more Americans
aware of the law via the Twitter hashtag #GetCovered.
A major element of the campaign has been a tie-up with
celebrities. Singer Lady Gaga used the #GetCovered hashtag on
Wednesday afternoon to promote the healthcare reform to more
than 40 million followers, starting a cascade of thousands of
Meanwhile, people who need insurance have been finding ways
to get around the online glitches.
Luis Veloz, a 19-year-old restaurant waiter from Dallas,
could not log onto Healthcare.gov on Tuesday. So he went to a
county hospital to join others in filling out paper applications
that should let him know what his plan options are in two weeks.
He believes he could wind up paying as little as $25 a month for
basic coverage after federal subsidies.
"I didn't want to wait a second longer," Veloz said in an
interview arranged by the Texas Organizing Project, a
Houston-based nonprofit advocacy group. "It's an exhilarating
process to be able to finally say that I'm going to have a
But public patience also showed some signs of wear as
technical difficulties for Obama's signature domestic policy
achievement continued for a second day.
Ricardo Mola, a 45-year-old part-time TV satellite dish
installer with high blood pressure and high cholesterol, said he
was especially frustrated because Obamacare is what led him to
vote for Obama.
"Obama has invested a lot of money in this, so I don't see
why it doesn't work. Hopefully the situation will improve," Mola
said at the Borinquen Health Centers clinic in Miami.
Administration officials said website hits were unexpectedly
high and insisted that the federal system was able to work
without problems during periods of low volume.
Dylan Staley, a junior at Louisiana State University, said
he was unable to log into the state's federally operated
marketplace around midnight on Tuesday because of a problem
getting past the security page, a frequently cited glitch.
"It is still surprising that even 24 hours later, the same
issue that people are constantly reporting has still not been
resolved," he said.
Kentucky's exchange, kynect, operated throughout the day on
Tuesday, but for about six hours was below optimal capacity,
leading some users to get timed out, officials said.
"Yesterday, we took very quick action to add that
horsepower," said Chris Clark, kynect's technology program
manager. Officials said the site doubled its capacity for the
account creation function by working with the state's office of
Connecticut's exchange, Access Health CT, was contracted to
have the capacity for 5,000 concurrent users. The site had 1,500
concurrent users at its peak on opening day, said Peter Van
Loon, the exchange's chief operating officer.
"We didn't think we'd have more than a handful of actual
applications and we had 167 completed," Van Loon said. "Some of
our conservative estimates in the past week - we're blowing by
those in a big way."