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State Officials Baffled By Traffic To Health Insurance Website

30 Million Hits To Online Marketplace Have Led To Problems
Screen capture of New York's online health insurance marketplace.

Screen capture of New York’s online health insurance marketplace.

CBS New York (con't)

Affordable Care Act Updates: CBSNewYork.com/ACA

Health News & Information: CBSNewYork.com/Health

ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) – New York has just 2.7 million residents without health insurance. So why has the state’s website allowing the uninsured to shop for a plan under the nation’s new health care law received nearly 30 million hits in two days?

That’s a question state officials are struggling to answer. The New York Department of Health has doubled the website’s capacity after users experienced delays and other difficulties, said the agency’s director, Donna Frescatore.

New York is constantly monitoring the website for “robots,” which could inundate the system as a protest or as a way to disrupt the health care program. But no evidence has been found. The department said evidence of an attack or protest could be seen immediately.

Republicans in Washington have rejected Democratic demands to vote on legislation ending a partial government shutdown without changes to the health care law.

Although more than 30 million hits were recorded by Wednesday evening, just 12,000 have entered the system and supplied information that is expected to lead to purchasing insurance, Frescatore said.

Many of the 30 million hits may reflect several visits by the same person over two days. Many may also simply be gleaning general information and may apply later. Still others could be from another state, but employed by a company based in New York. The state is looking to streamline the process so people can shop faster and not be “timed out” by the site.

Frescatore urged New Yorkers not to be discouraged if they are blocked or slowed in their use of the website. She noted applicants have six months to enroll and applications as late as December can result in insurance coverage on Jan. 1, the earliest date for coverage.

“The state’s customer service center operators have provided information to and answered questions from more than 9,000 New Yorkers,” she said. “Today, like all other states, New York’s website is experiencing significant levels of activity, which is causing some users to experience difficulty entering the site and delays in application processing.’

On Tuesday, the first day of open enrollment, visitors to the website 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.

“The website went on the blink twice and I just had to abandon it,” unemployed diabetic Shanti Masterson told CBS 2’s Amy Dardashtian. “After creating an account I logged onto the homepage. I’m clicking ‘get started,’ error page. Let’s try this again. Homepage, get started, error page again.”

Even employees at a help center on Southern Boulevard couldn’t get past the homepage.

“It’s too confusing. It’s not user friendly,” one employee said. “It’s confusing for us as well, so I can imagine what its like for customers.”

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