(Bloomberg) — On the first day of enrollment for the 2015 Patient Protecion and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) plans, the HealthCare.gov exchange plan enrollment website was working well enough that 100,000 people submitted applications, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell reported.
It was a dramatic turnabout from 2013, when HealthCare.gov collapsed on its first day of business. More than 500,000 visitors logged on to the site yesterday, Burwell said today on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Users reported having some problems with state-based enrollment systems. In Washington state, for example, technical problems led managers to shut their site down temporarily for repairs. But HealthCare.gov — the enrollment system for the PPACA exchanges operated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) — opened at about 1:30 a.m. New York time Saturday, and U.S. health officials reported no significant technical problems in the first 24 hours. The Obama administration is working to add an additional 3 million or more people to the 7.1 million already enrolled in plans established by PPACA — the law commonly known as “Obamacare.” The enrollment period is set to end Feb. 15.
The biggest hurdle may be finding and winning over confused and frustrated consumers, many of them with bad memories of last year.
See also: HealthCare.gov: Ultimate badness.
At an event yesterday, Burwell declined to say how late she stayed up overnight, waiting to see whether the site would work this year.
“We’re not going to talk about that,” she told reporters yesterday after observing people enrolling at a health clinic in Manassas, Va. “Between this and Ebola, there have been a lot of sleepless nights.”
At the Greater Prince William Community Health Center in Manassas, officials expected at least 500 people to show up for assistance signing up for insurance. Frank Principi, the executive director, said he ran ads for two weeks on cable television, Hispanic radio and in newspapers to draw the uninsured to the event.
Diego Osorio, an enrollment counselor, said it had taken him about an hour and a half to sign up his first clients of the day, a couple who had emigrated from Peru. They enrolled in a silver-level plan from Kaiser Permanente that would cost them $214 per month after a subsidy, he said.
“It’s not quick,” he said. “But it’s quicker than last year.”
Some of those waiting needed assistance with difficult family situations. Leonilda Diaz of Manassas asked Burwell directly during her news conference for help; her ex-husband, she said, had refused to provide her a document to prove she and her children qualify for PPACA coverage, she told the secretary.
“I need to have insurance no matter what,” Diaz said later in an interview. “I just need to take care of myself and my kids.”
Health clinic officials and Burwell’s aides quickly ushered Diaz to the front desk of the center. Diaz said she had tried and failed to obtain coverage last year.
“This is a case that’s a pretty specialized one,” Burwell said. “We’ll follow up. Let’s see if we can help.”