In Connecticut, Access Health CT sent out a tweet shortly before noon Tuesday, confirming the marketplace logged 10,000 visitors in the first three hours of operation and 22 enrollments.
The nationwide rollout comes after months of buildup in which the marketplaces, also known as exchanges, have been both praised and vilified.
Illustrating the heated political disagreements over the law, the opening of the exchanges came the same day as the shutdown of the federal government, led by congressional Republicans who want to block the health insurance reforms from taking effect.
The shutdown will have no immediate effect on the insurance marketplaces that are the backbone of the law, because they operate with money that isn’t subject to the annual budget wrangling in Washington.
The marketplaces represent a turning point in the nation’s approach to healthcare, the biggest expansion in coverage in nearly 50 years.
The Obama administration hopes to sign up 7 million people during the first year and aims to eventually sign up at least half of the nearly 50 million uninsured Americans through an expansion of Medicaid or government-subsidized plans.
But if people become frustrated with glitches in the computer-based enrollment process and turn away from the program, the prospects for Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement could dim.
“The promise of the law is that no one will go bankrupt because of medical bills,” said Neera Tanden, president of the
Center for American Progress, which helped work for passage of the law. “It won’t happen in the first day or the first year. But when the law is fully operational, it will provide an economic benefit to roughly 30 million Americans.”
Tanden cautioned against rushing to judge the marketplace’s success on its first-day performance. Numerous observers have predicted bugs and setbacks. Trained outreach workers in many states were having trouble getting the certification they need to start helping people to enroll.
Many states are predicting that people will initially test the online application system, but actually sign up closer to Dec. 15, which is the deadline for coverage to start Jan. 1. Customers have until the end of March to sign up in order to avoid tax penalties.
New York was among the first to have its exchange approved by the federal government.
The state expects to enroll 1.1 million uninsured over the next three years, with 650,000 joining plans for individuals, including sole proprietors of businesses, and another 450,000 joining the plans available to small businesses with 50 or fewer employees.
Monthly premiums range from $134 for catastrophic coverage in the greater Rochester area to $913 for a particular “platinum” plan on Long Island.
New York Secretary of State Cesar Perales was in Queens on Tuesday giving out information to assist residents signing up for the Affordable Care Act.
Carmen Quintuna of Glendale, Queens was looking to sign up for the so-called individual mandate for her family of four.
“I lost my health insurance. I really hope this plan works for us. I hope I can find affordable health insurance, something I can pay,” Quintuna told 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera.