Health care exchanges under the Affordable Care Act went live across the country Tuesday -- that is, if you could get on the website.
Since Wisconsin's exchanges are run by the federal government, residents must go to healthcare.gov to sign up.
But when many people, including reporters from WISC-TV, went there Tuesday and tried to create an account, encountered wait times and error messages. That's also what application counselors at the Dane County Job Center found, as well as some of the folks who came in to the center to ask about or start applying for coverage.
Kimberly Watkins said she went on both the website and called into the phone line Tuesday.
"When I tried to call it said your wait time was 15 minutes," said Watkins. "I tried to wait a little while but then I was like, 'Just let me go down there.'"
The job center counselors said of the more than 30 people who came in Tuesday, they sent them home with checklists of the information they needed to gather before signing up and paper applications they could mail. They said the website issues may have been expected.
"Everybody in the United States is trying to apply for health care coverage today," said Elissa Sprecher, enrollment coordinator with Access Community Health Centers. "It doesn't surprise me that the system is kind of overloaded right now."
The Centers for Medicaid Services held a conference call with reporters across the nation Tuesday afternoon, and said they had solved the problems many people had reported of not being able to get past creating security questions for an account.
"We were aware of that and that's what I would call one of the glitches in the system we have corrected today," said Marilyn Tavenner, administrator for the Centers for Medicaid Services. "Should you go back on now you would not have that issue. That was an issue we had earlier today and now folks are signing up and we're pleased."
That wasn't the case at the Job Center, where Watkins ultimately left armed with information and a phone number instead.
"It's a bummer and I hope they get it up and running," said Watkins.
Attempts made by WISC-TV reporters more than two hours after the CMS conference calls to set up an account were still not successful.
Tavenner said the website had 2.8 million hits Tuesday, but declined to say how many people had actually successfully purchased coverage.
For anyone else wanting to sign up for coverage, though, Tuesday is far from the last day. You have until Dec. 15 to sign up on healthcare.gov for your coverage to start Jan. 1 and can keep signing up until the end of March.
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