Heavy traffic slows health website on debut day

Scantily clad models, from left, Katina Shoemaker, Sharayah Jones and Meghan McMahon, hand out fliers and display signs encouraging the public to get health coverage under the Affordable Care Act during a promotional campaign Tuesday in Denver launched by Colorado HealthOP, a health-care co-op. Enlarge photo

BRENNAN LINSLEY/Associated Press

Scantily clad models, from left, Katina Shoemaker, Sharayah Jones and Meghan McMahon, hand out fliers and display signs encouraging the public to get health coverage under the Affordable Care Act during a promotional campaign Tuesday in Denver launched by Colorado HealthOP, a health-care co-op.

DENVER – Heavy consumer interest and website glitches marked the first day of Colorado’s health insurance exchange Tuesday.

The Connect for Health Colorado website is designed to let people with inadequate or no insurance shop for coverage. Similar websites went live Tuesday around the country as part of President Barack Obama’s health-care law, which requires everyone to carry medical insurance by next year.

As of 4 p.m., the website had more than 57,500 visitors, and 1,450 people had created an account.

“We’ve been thrilled with the interest and people’s desire to learn more about us,” said Patty Fontneau, CEO of Connect for Health Colorado.

Fontneau did not have information about how many people actually purchased a policy.

Website users were locked out from creating new accounts Tuesday morning for about an hour because of heavy web traffic.

“We’ve addressed the error messages. We’ve enabled account creation,” Fontneau said at an afternoon news conference.

However, troubles appeared to persist later in the day. The website returned several error messages when a Durango Herald reporter tried to create an account and log in around 5 p.m.

All of the plans in the exchange meet the minimum requirements for health care in the Affordable Care Act, which passed Congress without Republican support in 2010. Companies that don’t offer good enough coverage will have to terminate their plans.

So far this year, 16 companies have asked the state Division of Insurance to terminate health plans.

Advocates of the Affordable Care Act say people whose plans are killed will be able to find better coverage in the exchange. But Republicans called the idea a failure.

“Americans were promised by President Obama and Sen. (Mark) Udall that they could keep their doctor and their health-care plan if they liked it, but over the last month, many have seen their current coverage dropped and replaced with more expensive plans,” Colorado Republican Party Chairman Ryan Call said in a news release. “Colorado deserves better than this poorly constructed policy that is already hurting so many people.”

The health insurance exchange offers about 150 insurance plans from 10 companies for individuals, and 92 plans from six companies for small businesses. Many people will qualify for a tax credit if they don’t have an adequate insurance plan through their jobs.

Open enrollment in Connect for Health Colorado continues through March.

jhanel@durangoherald.com

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