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Health care law sign-up flaws continue on Day 2

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DAVID PITT | October 3, 2013 09:44 AM EST | AP

DES MOINES, Iowa — DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A second day of technological snags kept some Iowa residents from comparing prices or enrolling in a plan on Iowa's new online health insurance marketplace Wednesday.

Denise Rathman, 47, of Des Moines said she'd tried to log in Tuesday, but the website would not allow her to create an account. On Wednesday she encountered similar problems and after more than 20 minutes of waiting gave up for a while.

"It was worse today than it was yesterday," she said.

The marketplaces are a key component of the nation's new health care law. Rathman, who has insurance through Dec. 31, is eager to sign up for a policy. She said she has good insurance but also has psoriatic arthritis, which has caused her to be denied insurance in the past.

One of the protections provided under the law is that consumers with existing medical problems cannot be denied coverage.

"I'm pretty excited for this," she said.

Rathman said she's frustrated but not too worried because she knows she has until mid-December to sign up for insurance. But she's concerned some people may give up.

Consumers who want coverage starting Jan. 1 have until Dec. 15 to enroll.

Many consumers on Tuesday contacted the insurance companies offering policies on the exchange. The West Des Moines-based CoOportunity Health, which sells policies in Iowa and Nebraska, said it recorded a daily high for website hits with more than 500 people logging in to get quotes and about 100 people calling the company's toll-free call center.

Cliff Gold, the company's chief operating officer, said people likely turned to insurer websites when they couldn't access the federal government's website.

After trying throughout the day Tuesday, Gold said he was finally successful at 10 p.m. in obtaining a user account on the federal site.

"We had been telling people we expected that the website would be clunky. We may not have expected that it essentially wouldn't come up at all in terms of being able to register," he said. "I have been advising people for quite a while to wait a week or two."

He said it's likely on the first day that not only consumers but hospitals, doctors, other insurance companies, agents and brokers, and the media were trying to get into the website.

Federal officials said 4.7 million unique visitors logged into the website on Tuesday. A federal call center received 190,000 calls.

Marilyn Tavenner, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, whose office is overseeing the rollout of the health care law, wouldn't say Tuesday how many consumers successfully enrolled into the program. She would only say that some consumers succeeded.

Iowa insurance officials said they have no information on how many people bought health insurance on the first day. Tom Alger, a spokesman for the Iowa Insurance Commissioner, said since the federal government is managing Iowa's exchange, state officials don't have the data on purchases.

He said computer glitches are expected to be fixed and consumers should keep trying to log in.

"We still encourage people to keep proceeding to do it until they get the glitches worked out," Alger said. "We remain confident and cognizant that we've got months to work this out."


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