Public Flocks To Exchanges on October 1st

October 3, 2013

Public exchanges, a key provision of the Affordable Care Act, opened for business on October 1st, and millions of Americans went online to check out their health plan options on either state- or federally-managed exchanges.

As expected, there were glitches – more even than were anticipated. But the overwhelming demand signals the potential success of these public health insurance marketplaces.

How many people visited the public exchanges? On the first day, 4.7 million people visited HealthCare.gov, the federally-managed exchange, and 133,000 called the federal portal’s call center. About 104,000 requested live chats.

While the federal exchange, which serves 36 states, was inaccessible for much of the day, administrators “added capacity and made adjustments” to put it back into service by late afternoon.

As for state exchanges, New York officials said 2.5 million people visited the  New York State of Health exchange in its first half hour. California reported as many as 16,000 hits a second on CoveredCA.org. Kentucky’s Kynect exchange website had a more modest 24,000 visitors by 9:30 am, but by midday Wednesday had successfully enrolled 2,600 individuals and families in plans.

Some states running their own exchanges, including Colorado and Oregon, failed to open their online enrollment portals for business as scheduled, but assured that this delay is only temporary and both states are enrolling people over the phone in the interim.

Citizens have until December 15th to enroll in health plans to guarantee that they have coverage by January 1st, when the tax penalty applies for those who have not enrolled in some form of insurance.

Precise enrollment numbers are still unclear, and it is not yet known if the technical glitches deterred consumers from enrolling. Despite criticisms and access issues, the takeaway from October 1st is that people are visiting public exchanges in huge numbers, giving an early indication that a viable new market for health plans on public exchanges will develop over the next months and years. We will continue to monitor the status of these exchanges and report back here.

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