Washington (AFP) – A key stage of President Barack Obama’s health care reform law hit a stumbling block Tuesday when millions of people flocked to browse online insurance but were frustrated by technical glitches.
The launch of healthcare.gov went ahead despite a U.S. government shutdown incited by Republicans opposed to the law, and Obama vowed that six in 10 people could find insurance there for less than $100 per month.
But many of the 2.8 million users the government reported having counted for the day were blocked from entering the site due to heavy traffic.
“With any new product launch, there are going to be glitches as things unfold,” said Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
“We certainly had a high volume of consumers creating accounts this morning,” she told reporters. “We added capacity, and made some adjustments to the system to handle that.”
She declined to specify how many people had signed up on the first day of what is to be a six month process, saying only: “We can confirm that people have enrolled.”
Known widely as “Obamacare,” the Affordable Care Act was passed by Congress and signed by Obama in 2010, with a promise to help over 30 million uninsured people get health care coverage.
Despite its ambitions to revolutionize American health care, the plan is not free, and will not be able to cover tens of millions of people in America who lack full insurance.
Advocates have touted it as a major step toward universal health care, while opponents like Republican House speaker John Boehner have insisted the law “is not ready for prime-time.”
Indeed, for much of Tuesday, the new health insurance exchanges that were to begin enrolling people via the website healthcare.gov were jammed.
Frustrated users flocked to Twitter to complain that healthcare.gov and others linked to the exchanges were not working.
An attempt by an AFP reporter to check prices offered in Virginia resulted in the message: “Important: Your account couldnt [sic] be created at this time. The system is unavailable.”
The NY State of Health site said that “overwhelming interest” had led to two million visits in the first two hours of the launch, and asked people to come back later if they had been unable to log in.