Washington (CBS Las Vegas) – The Affordable Care Act’s state-by-state health exchanges opened on Oct. 1, and as President Barack Obama himself warned, there were expected “glitches and problems.”
Obama told National Public Radio on Tuesday to “discount all the political talk” of the federal government shutdown and go directly to the website healthcare.gov to check out the health insurance exchange options.
However, reaching out beyond the main website proved difficult in the opening hours of the exchange.
Direct telephone contact to human representatives for exchanges in Missouri, Ohio, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Texas, Michigan, Indiana, and Louisiana all elicited the same “estimated wait time” to remain on the line: 15 minutes.
“All of our representatives are currently assisting other customers.”
The phone calls each begin by asking the caller for their state that “offers health coverage through the health insurance marketplace,” before asking if the customer would like more information, or to speak with a human representative.
“A marketplace representative will be happy to help you,” continues the computer voice. “After speaking with the marketplace representative would you be willing to participate in a short survey about your customer service experience?”
Several states, including Nevada, New York, Connecticut, Colorado, California, and Washington state re-direct from the computerized call to their own respective telephone lines.
Healthcare.gov acknowledged delays on its Twitter feed on Tuesday morning: “Thanks for all your comments and updates as you enroll. We apologize that wait times on the site and hotline are longer than expected!”
In the first few hours, websites for Connecticut, Washington State, Rhode Island and Massachusetts were among many websites experiencing a mixture of error messages and failures to load.
Websites for California, Colorado and Nevada were among those that appeared to be running without issue.
In a media conference call with the Nevada Health Insurance Exchange, Executive Director Jon Hager said he was not expecting the federal government shutdown to have any effect on the health exchange process.
Hager said the Nevada exchange was expecting, “A lot of curiosity, a lot of web hits,” and stated that word from some of the other markets were that thousands of web hits had come in during the opening hours of the health exchange sites.
The Nevada staff involved in the conference call stated that a few specific features of the website were still being uploaded, but the public can start applying through the call center as well.