President Barack Obama's much-anticipated Health Insurance Marketplace opened on Tuesday, touting a simpler way for millions of Americans to purchase "quality, affordable health coverage" under the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.
But the marketplace's online hub, HealthCare.Gov, appeared to be plagued with delays after its 8 a.m. ET launch, as many visitors attempting to access an enrollment login page were greeted with a message: "Please wait":
Health Insurance Marketplace: Please wait
We have a lot of visitors on our site right now and we're working to make your experience here better. Please wait here until we send you to the login page. Thanks for your patience!
Users were then redirected to a page with a different message:
The System is down at the moment.
We're working to resolve the issue as soon as possible. Please try again later.
The site's official Twitter feed issued a statement apologizing for the delays:
Thanks for all your comments and updates as you enroll. We apologize that wait times on the site and hotline are longer than expected! (1/2)— HealthCare.gov (@HealthCareGov) October 1, 2013
We're working to fix these issues as soon as possible. Thanks for your patience (2/2)— HealthCare.gov (@HealthCareGov) October 1, 2013
Tuesday was the first day users could enroll in the federal program. Enrollment will remain open until the end of March.
The U.S. Health and Human Services Department issued a statement to Yahoo News acknowledging a need to improve the system, and suggested that users contact a call center or seek out an "in-person assistor in their community":
We have built a dynamic system and are prepared to make adjustments as needed and improve the consumer experience. This new system will allow millions of Americans to access quality, affordable health care coverage – without underwriting. Consumers who need help can also contact the call center, use the live chat function, or go to localhelp.healthcare.gov to find an in-person assistor in their community.
But some who tried to reach call centers experienced long wait times, too.
It's unclear how widespread the delays were or how long they were expected to last.
"We're likely to have some glitches," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters Monday. "We will fix them and move on. Is this a sign that the law is flawed and failed? I don't think so."
Thirty-six states participated in Tuesday's federal rollout, but there were reports of other states experiencing delays with their exchanges, too.
Maryland pushed back the opening of its online marketplace until noon because its site was “experiencing connectivity issues.”
Visitors to New York's state-run exchange site were greeted with a similar message:
Due to overwhelming interest in the NY State of Health - including 2 million visits in the first 2 hours of the site launch - the health exchange is currently having log in issues. We encourage users who are unable to log in to come back to the site later when these issues will be resolved.
In an interview with Bloomberg News ahead of the launch, Jon Hager, the executive director of Nevada’s insurance exchange, put it this way: "You are welcome to come on Oct. 1 if that’s what you want to do, but you might just want to wait."