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Millions Flock to Govt Online Health Exchanges Despite Govt Shutdown

BY Miranda Neubauer | Tuesday, October 1 2013

CNN's homepage, like news homepages across the world, is filled with headlines about the government shutdown. But since early Tuesday, visitors to the CNN homepage from the New York area at least have also been greeted with full-page ads encouraging them to enroll in the state-run health care exchanges.

The New York State of Health web platform is one of the exchange websites that reported some access difficulties earlier in the day due to intense usage. As the Washington Post and others noted, at one point Tuesday the site showed the notice: "Attention: 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. We encourage users who are unable to log in to come back to the site later when these issues will be resolved."

The Washington Post noted that there are 2.5 million uninsured residents in New York. It also reported on some problems with the exchange in Kentucky, which had processed over 1,000 applications for insurance by 9:30 am. "It is a higher volume than we expected, and it has caused a few technical issues," a spokeswoman for Kentucky's Cabinet for Health and Family Services told the Post. "We've got our IT people in our command center trying to iron out those issues." In Washington D.C, according to the Post, over 1,500 residents had created accounts within 90 minutes, also more than the exchange staff had expected.

The Advisory Board Company, a consulting firm, was tracking the problems the exchange sites across the country were experiencing, detailing the type of exchange, the system being used and the specific issues of each site. As of 12:15 pm, sites for 17 states had run into some sort of problem, including Connecticut, New Jersey, Hawaii, Michigan and Minnesota.

Via: The Advisory Board Company

In his remarks Tuesday on the shutdown, President Obama compared the issues to the rollout of Apple's new operating system. "Now, like every new law, every new product roll-out, there are going to be some glitches in the sign-up process along the way that we will fix. I've been saying this from the start. For example, we found out that there have been times this morning where the site's been running more slowly than it normally will," he said. "The reason is because more than one million people visited before 7:00 in the morning. To put that in context, there were five times more users in the marketplace this morning than have ever been on at one time," he went on to say.

"And we're going to be speeding things up in the next few hours to handle all of this demand that exceeds anything that we had expected. Consider that just a couple of weeks ago, Apple rolled out a new mobile operating system, and within days, they found a glitch, so they fixed it. I don't remember anybody suggesting Apple should stop selling iPhones or iPads or threatening to shut down the company if they didn't," he said.

Meanwhile, private companies such as insurer Aflac and contraceptive brand Mirena have also been running ads invoking the Affordable Care Act.

An earlier version of the graphic from Advisory Board incorrectly identified the state exchanges for which Accenture is serving as system integrator. Accenture is only serving as integrator for the California exchange, not for the Iowa, Kansas, and Nevada exchanges