BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Unexpectedly heavy first-day traffic strained the website New York set up for residents to shop for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, health officials said Tuesday as technicians worked on glitches that prevented some consumers from getting past the home page.
In the first two hours after going live, "the site received an overwhelming and unanticipated response of 2 million website visits, causing users to have trouble logging in," a statement from the Health Department said. By about 2 p.m., the NY State of Health website had recorded 7.5 million hits.
While the department said thousands of New Yorkers had begun shopping for low-cost plans, others were greeted with error messages when clicking on links to register as individuals or families. The links for employers, employees and brokers also experienced periodic problems.
"With considerable time to prepare for the exchanges going live, I was expecting more from the state," said Mike McDougall, president of McDougall Communications in Rochester, who ran into repeated error messages as he tried throughout the day to navigate the site's Small Business Marketplace. "Its inability to anticipate heavy traffic on the first day — or accommodate such a couple hours into the process — is a bit disconcerting."
The Health Department statement said technicians were working on the problems, which were not unique to New York as states' online insurance marketplaces that are at the heart of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul began a six-month open-enrollment period.
At a public outreach event in Buffalo, Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy acknowledged the continuing criticism of Obama's reform, but said New Yorkers were gaining access to plans that are state-certified and cheaper than those offered in the marketplace last year.
"It's not perfect but it's good, it's solid and it will get people into the system," Duffy said of the ACA, "and if government does what it should do then leadership in Washington on both sides of the aisle will come together and work on the Affordable Care Act so that next year and the year after it gets better and better."
Schuyler Banks, 48, of Buffalo was planning to shop for a plan that would cost less than the $800 per month that the adjunct business instructor and his wife now pay through her job in financial services.
"We're going to sit down to see what our options are," Banks said. "I'm not sure how it's going to help me."
Health Exchange: http://www.HealthBenefitExchange.ny.gov
Approved rates by the Department of Financial Services: http://bit.ly/16bbsOz
Coverage map: http://www.nystateofhealth.ny.gov/PlansMap