More than 2.8 million people tried to access the new healthcare exchange system from midnight to 4 p.m., Obama administration officials said today, more than seven times the maximum who had tried to access the website previously.
At the same time, officials of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) acknowledged problems with both the state and federal systems. Marilyn Tavenner, CMS administrator, declined to disclose how many had actually been able to sign up for insurance on the first day the health insurance exchange system was launched. She said the information would be updated regularly, but was not ready for release, despite repeated requests from reporters for detailed data during a 4 p.m. conference call.
“This is a marathon, not a sprint, and we need your help,” she said.
Tavenner also said Hawaii and Maryland had reported problems on state sites that had been ironed out by mid-afternoon. She said the combined sites had also handled 81,000 phone calls and 60,000 “live chats,” another system for people to receive help in accessing the system.
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The U.S. is running the exchanges in 36 states, Tavenner said.
Consumers have until Dec. 15 to sign up for insurance that starts Jan. 1, and until March 31 to sign up for 2014. She said the system was obviously going to have startup problems because it had been “completely reengineered, and the process was complicated and lengthy.”
Tavenner spoke hours after President Obama said in the Rose Garden that the law establishing the exchanges, PPACA, is “here to stay.”