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Calif. health exchange back online after upgrades

Posted: October 2, 2013 1:28 p.m.
Updated: October 2, 2013 1:28 p.m.

Bob Ettinger tries to enroll in the nation's new health insurance system at the Community Health Center on Tuesday in New Britain, Conn.

SACRAMENTO (AP) — Online enrollment for California's new health insurance exchange resumed Wednesday after technical glitches on the system's opening day forced overnight upgrades.

The enrollment portion of the exchange website was taken offline from 8:30 p.m. Tuesday until 10:45 a.m. Wednesday, Covered California spokesman Roy Kennedy said. He said some pages were loading slowly and logos for insurance plans were not displaying correctly.

Consumers were still able to browse insurance plan options while the enrollment pages were being fixed.

"There was no decline in service," Kennedy said.

Interest from Californians appeared high after the exchange opened for business Tuesday. Approximately 7,700 Californians began applications for insurance coverage, Kennedy said.

The state's two call centers received more than 23,000 calls, and there were more than 5.7 million hits on the website by Tuesday afternoon. Kennedy said he was not able to comment Wednesday morning about whether that high volume was continuing on the exchange's second day.

A third service center, in Fresno, is scheduled to open in November.

Patrick Johnston, president and chief executive of the California Association of Health Plans, said the initial response was better than he expected.

"I think the pent-up demand for affordable health insurance is reflected in the volume of calls and hits to the website," he said.

As open enrollment continues, Johnston said it will be important that younger, healthier people are among those signing up for coverage to ensure a balance in the pool of enrollees. Those with serious medical conditions are expected to be among the first to seek coverage, but those people cost insurers more.

Under the Affordable Care Act, people cannot be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition.

Covered California officials say they expect to release some early enrollment data in mid-November.

Johnston said his organization and insurers throughout the state are working on educating Californians so they understand the coverage options and are aware of the March 31 deadline for enrollment.

"This is a limited-time offer," he said. "If a person doesn't get coverage during open enrollment, that person is out of luck until 2015."


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