Insurance Exchanges Off to Rocky Start

Tuesday was an inauspicious day for Obamacare as open enrollment for the federal government's health insurance marketplaces took place the same day as the partial government shutdown began.

Tuesday was an inauspicious day for Obamacare as open enrollment for the federal government’s health insurance marketplaces took place the same day as the partial government shutdown began.

The Department of Health and Human Services was expecting Tuesday to be a tough day. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the agency was anticipating possible site issues, which is exactly what happened.

Heavy traffic caused delays and system issues as open enrollment began. According to Modern Healthcare, at 10 a.m. the system was down and one of the messages visible to site visitors read:

“Health Insurance Marketplace: Please wait. We have a lot of visitors on our site right now and we're working to make your experiences here better. Please wait here until we send you to the login page. Thanks for your patience!”

On Monday Sebelius compared any glitches users might experience with the exchanges to difficulties experienced with Apple’s new operating system.

“If there is not quite the operational excellence right away, we will continue to press for that,” she said.

The federal exchange wasn’t the only one experiencing difficulties. Health Pocket reported that Connecticut and Maryland’s state exchanges also had some technical difficulties, and Modern Healthcare reported that Minnesota’s wasn’t going live until the afternoon.

The government shutdown, however, hasn’t affected the exchanges. Two weeks ago policy experts told Reuters that the money going to the state-run insurance exchanges were a “permanent appropriation” and wouldn’t be affected.

While the insurance exchanges are off to a rocky start, experts have said it will take a while to know the impact of enrollment, according to the American Journal of Managed Care. The first batch of enrollees islikely to be those eager for coverage, not the young, health buyers needed to balance premiums.

"As with all things, the first few weeks are not a good indication of anything," said Joseph Antos, an economist at the American Enterprise Institute. "It doesn't tell you anything about the prospects for health reform being a success or a failure."