ObamaCare’s new health insurance marketplaces experienced a range of technical glitches Tuesday morning as they opened to enroll patients for the first time.
The federally facilitated online exchanges include functions for creating an account, providing personal information and ultimately, comparison shopping for health insurance plans.
Users experienced difficulty with the first step — creating an account — which barred them from accessing the rest of the system.
The enrollment site and its “live chat” function were also loading extremely slowly as of Tuesday morning.
Some users received error messages asking for patience as the pages loaded, or indicating that the “system is down.”
Others were ultimately sent to pages with incomplete or nonsense text, perhaps due to heavy traffic.
The myriad errors underscore the challenge for federal health officials in mounting the online marketplaces, which are meant to enroll millions of patients in the next six months.
Some state-run exchanges were also overwhelmed with users. Kynect, Kentucky’s online marketplace, posted a message stating that it was “experiencing log-in issues” that would be resolved shortly.
The federal system’s design is unprecedented in the way it offers a centralized way to purchase health insurance and receive federal discounts.
But critics have warned that the task of launching a sophisticated enrollment website may be too much for the government to handle.
The stakes are high for the Obama administration as the open enrollment period begins, and supporters of the healthcare law are ramping up efforts to promote it to the public.
Several prominent Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), published op-eds Tuesday touting the law’s benefits.
The Health and Human Services (HHS) Department launched an aggressive social media effort to draw users to healthcare.gov, where they can access the exchanges.
President Obama and his deputies have emphasized that enrollment glitches will be fixed as they appear, and that initial problems are not fatal flaws when it comes to the new system.
HHS acknowledged the issues Tuesday and said that solutions were in progress.
“We have built a dynamic system and are prepared to make adjustments as needed and improve the consumer experience,” HHS spokeswoman Joanne Peters said in a statement.
“This new system will allow millions of Americans to access quality, affordable healthcare coverage — without underwriting.”
She added that consumers who need assistance can dial the law’s call center or seek out help from “navigators” in their communities.
Republicans, meanwhile, were eager to note the flaws.
Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) immediately highlighted the glitches in an early statement just hours after the government shut down because of a congressional stalemate.
“We have been warned time and time again that ObamaCare is not ready for prime time,” Huelskamp said. “Well, it turns out that is right.”