Plenty of Browsers at Obamacare Exchanges, but Not Clear How Many Buyers
Millions of Americans visited websites for Obamacare health-insurance exchanges when they launched on Tuesday, leading many of the sites to crash from heavy volume. Despite the clear interest, federal officials would not say how many people actually signed up for new coverage.
During a conference call with reporters on Tuesday afternoon, officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) refused to disclose the number of people who bought insurance through the online marketplaces that are a centerpiece of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). “We have just decided not to release that yet,” said Marilyn Tavenner, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The reticence of officials could be rooted in the serious computer glitches that bedeviled the exchange websites on their first day of operation. The federal website that manages enrollment for 34 states that have opted not to independently run their own exchanges counted visits from 2.8 million people on Tuesday, according to HHS, but greeted many visitors with an error message or long wait. Some state-run exchange websites opened late due to computer snafus or crashed during the day. On Twitter, state exchanges apologized to consumers and asked for patience while glitches were resolved. In the face of these problems, many visitors to the sites may have given up before being able to shop for insurance.
For all the attention on the launch, there is time to fix the errors. An open-enrollment period that began on Oct. 1 will last until March 31, and the earliest new coverage will begin is Jan. 1, 2014.
Although Tavenner would not release enrollment data, HHS said consumers have already signed up for insurance through both the federal exchange website and every state exchange in operation. As the launch day wore on and states ironed out some of the kinks in their sites, many touted their Web traffic and enrollment figures. Kentucky officials said nearly 60,000 people visited its exchange during the first 15 hours it was operational. The Covered California exchange reported receiving an average of 5,000 page views per minute on Tuesday. And Minnesota said exchange-consumer-assistance workers fielded more than 1,700 calls.