Obamacare enrollment posts error message as online traffic snarls up sites

Obamacare, Affordable Healthcare Act
A man fills out an information card during an Affordable Care Act outreach event hosted by Planned Parenthood for the Latino community in Los Angeles, California September 28, 2013.
Credit: Reuters

The U.S. government launched the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s landmark healthcare reform on Tuesday, opening new insurance marketplaces across the country for millions of uninsured Americans, but technical glitches prevented early access to many of their websites.

The opening of the state marketplaces, or exchanges, went ahead despite a partial federal government shutdown precipitated by Republican opposition to the healthcare law that deadlocked a spending bill in Congress.

But a federally-run exchange for consumers in 36 states began posting error messages for at least 24 of them soon after the system opened for enrollment at 8 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT), citing online traffic as a reason for the difficulties. An administration official said experts were aware of the issue and were working on it.

“Consumers who need help can also contact the call center, use the live chat function or go to localhelp.healthcare.gov to find an in-person assistor in their community,” the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement.

Exchanges run by 14 states and the District of Columbia presented a mixed picture. Some, like Massachusetts, were able to accept consumer log-ins. The state-run exchange in Maryland delayed its opening by four hours, while Minnesota said it would wait until the afternoon after checking its connection with federal databases.

The websites will give many Americans their first glimpse of new subsidized health plans that are being offered to millions of the uninsured, in the most ambitious U.S. social program since Medicare was introduced in the 1960s.

Administration officials said they had expected a rocky opening because of the challenge of building a massive technological infrastructure within a short time.

Obama was scheduled to promote his signature domestic policy achievement on Tuesday, including a meeting in the Oval Office with a group of Americans who stand to benefit from the program, while Vice President Joe Biden and first lady Michelle Obama will also promote the law in the media.

The marketplaces, or exchanges, require health plans to provide a broad range of essential benefits that were not necessarily part of individual policies in the past, including mental health services, birth control and preventive care. The coverage is linked to other insurance market reforms and new consumer safeguards, including a ban on discrimination based on gender and health history.

The Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, also mandates that Americans obtain insurance or pay a fine.

“For years, the financial, physical or mental health of millions of Americans suffered because they couldn’t afford the care they or their family needed,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement on Tuesday. “But thanks to the health care law, all of that is changing. Today’s launch begins a new day when health care coverage will be more accessible and affordable than ever before.”

Republicans have fought for months to delay or stop Obamacare, most recently triggering a shutdown of the federal government on Monday night by insisting that a routine funding measure include a delay in Obamacare, which the Democratic-controlled Senate rejected.

“The Affordable Care Act is moving forward. That funding is already in place. You can’t shut it down,” Obama told his Republican opponents in a televised statement at the White House on Monday.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Bloomberg: Going green will grant you longer life…

Former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg tells Metro that cities are where fighting global warming can make a difference, and increase people’s lifespan.

International

Ban Ki Moon: "Climate change is an issue…

My message to you is: make your voice heard and your actions count. Change is in the air. Solutions exist. The race is on. It’s time to lead.

Local

Earth Day New York food toolkits to help…

Hundreds of classrooms across New York City already have indoor container gardens that allow students to grow food right where they learn. But Earth Day…

Local

NYPD announces street closures for United Nations General…

The United Nations representatives are in town, and multiple city streets will be closed to traffic through Saturday, Sept. 26. The NYPD is urging those…

Television

10 Facts you won’t learn about Frankie Grande…

Frankie Grande is the worst and/or the best. Whether or not you're a fan, you'll want to know these facts about the polarizing player from "Big Brother 16."

Movies

Antoine Fuqua can kill someone with just a…

It's amazing what you can get done with the right tools. In designing the climactic battle in "the Equalizer," in which Denzel Washington's retired special…

Movies

Guess Ben Kingsley's worst filmmaking experience

Here's a fun game: Sir Ben Kingsley has made a lot of films since "Gandhi" in 1982, but at least one of them was a…

Books

Does Lena Dunham have any secrets left?

Get a sneak peek at her new book to determine if it’s worth the read.

NFL

Eli Manning finally feeling good in West Coast…

The Giants have very little time before their next game, but they still took a moment to relish the team’s biggest offensive outburst since Week 1 of 2013.

College

College football top 25 poll: Oregon, Alabama close…

College football top 25 poll: Oregon, Alabama close in on FSU

NFL

Jay Cutler takes Marc Trestman's coaching to heart

While Jay Cutler turned to an autobiography on the man who would be his head coach, Trestman had personal experience with the player.

NFL

Jets vs. Bears: 3 things to watch

Jets fans likely chalked up Monday's matchup with the Bears as a loss when the NFL schedule came out. But given their team's play so…

Style

Sarah Doukas on social media, models and diversity

The maker of Kate Moss tells Metro how social media can drive the diversity change in the fashion industry.

Education

Here are this year's most creative college application…

The college application essay is one of the only times during the admissions process where a student can showcase his or her personality. While many…

Style

Nicola Formichetti on Diesel, the digital revolution and…

The artistic director of fashion label Diesel – and stylist for Lady Gaga – is creating human connection through social media.

Education

Your older siblings probably had a big impact…

As many high school students agonize over where to go to college, it turns out they turn to a very familiar source for advice and…