MANHATTAN — A barrage of New Yorkers eager to start shopping for health coverage on Day One of Obamacare almost immediately crashed the state Health Department’s website for the online marketplace.
“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,” the New York Health Benefit Exchange site announced shortly after going live Tuesday.
By the afternoon, state health department officials reported an "unanticipated" 7.5 million visits.
The New York State of Health site has an overwhelming amount of information, including what most consumers want to know about the dozen or so companies offering plans on the exchange: how much they’ll have to pay, which doctors and prescription drugs are in-network and what the deductibles and co-pays will be.
But as the gates opened for the estimated 1.5 million uninsured New York City residents, now able to seek insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act — better known as Obamacare — users were greeted with slow wait times or trouble logging in. State health officials said that technicians were working to reconfigure the system to address the issues.
“With a website providing so much data to so many people, we are working through these growing pains and are confident users will have better access to the site shortly,” officials said.
Tuesday’s site snafu shouldn’t cause a delay for coverage: New Yorkers will have until Dec. 15 to sign up for coverage to take effect Jan. 1, 2014. (The 15th of each month is the cutoff for receiving coverage the following month.)
Open enrollment will last through March 31, and then the only way to qualify will be for certain life events, like the loss of a job, birth, marriage or a divorce.
Some 75 percent of New Yorkers are expected to qualify for reduced-cost insurance purchased through the exchange, experts said.
Anyone whose household income is less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level (which would be less than $45,960 for an individual and $94,200 for a family of four) would be able to get federal tax credits to offset the full monthly price.
The New York State of Health call center (1-855-355-5777) was helping customers with the enrollment process, state officials said.