Glitches Slow Launch of Obamacare Online Health Exchanges

Obama says high demand caused health exchange websites to crash.


The government shutdown did not halt the launch of online state health care exchanges Tuesday, but the launch day for the venues designed for people to shop for health insurance options was marked in several states with glitches and crashed websites.

[READ: Health Insurance Exchanges Open for Business]

The exchanges created as part of Affordable Care Act opened Tuesday nationwide, despite years of controversial debates in Congress. The House and Senate are deadlocked on whether to tie funding for the government with attempts to defund the health care law, which is commonly referred to as Obamacare.

Online exchanges in several states crashed, and opened late as the websites cited error messages, including the federal website, according to NBC News. The federal government is running the health care exchanges in 36 states, so that means millions of people could not sign up on the insurance exchanges on Tuesday.

The new law forbids health care plans from denying people coverage because of pre-existing conditions, and it will make health care accessible to millions of people for the first time. Demand for this service led more than 1 million people to visit before 7 a.m. EDT, which is what caused the websites to run slowly or become inactive, according to a speech from President Barack Obama.

"Like every new law, every new product rollout, there are going to be some glitches in the sign-up process along the way that we will fix," Obama said.

[ALSO: A Consumer’s Guide to Obamacare]

"Just a couple weeks ago Apple rolled out a new mobile operating system, and within days they found a glitch, so they fixed it," Obama said. "I don't remember anybody suggesting Apple should stop selling iPhones or iPads or threatening to shut down the company if they didn't."

The glitchy launch of the health exchange websites was criticized as a bad omen for the rollout of the Affordable Care Act in a blog post co-written by House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., as well as Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich, and Rep. John Kline, R-Minn.

"It does not instill confidence that the administration was scheduled to certify the security of the health IT systems just hours before millions of Americans are expected to upload their personal information," the joint blog post said.

The exchange websites also may need to be redesigned for a better consumer experience. A new study by Columbia Business School shows approximately 79 percent of Americans may over-estimate how many health benefits they need to buy, and that consumers could accidentally overspend $9 billion on health benefits if the websites don't offer education on health options.

[STUDY: Consumers May Spend $9 Billion More Than Necessary on Obamacare]

Spanish-language health exchange websites were not ready on Tuesday and are being prepared for a re-launch, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told NBC.

"Starting [Oct. 21,] at the end of Spanish Heritage Month, we will actually have a week-long re-launch of the Spanish website," Sebelius said.

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