Obamacare exchanges hit by early technical glitches

High traffic volumes appear to have slowed many sites down

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Massachusetts' healthcare exchange site was unavailable this morning. The site has been accessible, though an official noted "a few bugs" today.

Would-be insurance customers from across the U.S. ran into some early problems today accessing the new federally run healthcare exchange at Healthcare.gov, as well as with several state-run exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act.

As of noon ET, visitors attempting to apply for coverage online or compare available plans in their state were getting a webpage telling them that they would have to wait a while before they could access their state's login page.

"We have a lot of visitors on our site right now and we're working to make your experience here better," the page noted, while thanking visitors for their patience.

Residents from more than 30 states including Maine, Illinois, Indiana, New Jersey and Florida need to use the federal Healthcare.gov site if they want to enroll for coverage through the new healthcare marketplaces that went live today. Their states do not have state-run exchanges like those in several other states, including Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut and Oregon.

Some state-run sites appeared to be having problems as well.

New York's official health plan marketplace, dubbed "New York State of Health," warned visitors about login problems this morning. "Due to overwhelming interest in the NY State of Health -- including 2 million visits in the first 2 hours of the site launch -- the health exchange is currently having log in issues," the site informed visitors. "We encourage users who are unable to log in to come back to the site later when these issues will be resolved."

Meanwhile, the Vermont Health Connect website was unavailable at 1:30 p.m. ET. The same was true with Washington's Healthplanfinder site.

The new insurance marketplaces are important components of the Affordable Care Act. They are designed to let individuals, families and businesses shop around for insurance, compare plans and buy affordable coverage.

The federally run exchange and the state exchanges connect back to a Federal Services Data Hub that allows healthcare marketplaces to quickly verify the eligibility of individuals seeking coverage.

The system connects healthcare insurance exchanges with numerous U.S. government databases at agencies like the Social Security Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Veterans Affairs. The hub, which has been the focus of security and privacy concerns was declared secure and ready for service by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) last month.

Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at  @jaivijayan or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed . His e-mail address is jvijayan@computerworld.com.

See more by Jaikumar Vijayan on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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