Obamacare's state exchanges opened up on Tuesday morning, allowing people to sign up for insurance, and, like most website launches, there were (quite) a few technical difficulties. As Politico reported today, at least two state-run exchanges have delayed their launches until noon, while Minnesota and Maryland are asking visitors to wait until later in the day to attempt the site. Two million people visited New York's exchange site in the first two hours, causing log-in errors.
It's hard to get a read on how regular people are experiencing the exchanges. The people most likely to tweet about problems signing up are those with an interest in recording glitches — people who oppose Obamacare, and the reporters who cover them. Many conservative writers and lawmakers shared their error messages on Twitter. (That's not to say there are no glitches — there definitely are many.) Here's The National Review's Jim Geraghty, who got one of the most common messages, a request to wait due to the site's high traffic volume:
Wow, it really is just like a regular doctor's office! pic.twitter.com/JH45nfMXgW— jimgeraghty (@jimgeraghty) October 1, 2013
Other messages said the system was down, and read "Important: Your account couldn't be created at this time. The system is unavailable." Here's Reason editor Nick Gillespie:
Of those who were able to get past the waiting line and the error messages, several noted the security questions weren't appearing as they tried to create their accounts. Here's a reporter from the Dallas station WFAA 8:
These glitches, however, aren't universal. Charlie Spiering at the conservative Washington Examiner did manage to get to the system's security questions, though he wasn't sure how comfortable he was with the government knowing his favorite cuisine (it's "american," obviously). "Am I comfortable knowing that the government will have the answers to these questions? Oh well, the NSA probably already knows," he wrote.
Rep. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who's running for Senate in 2014, tried to sign up for healthcare as well, but got an error message full of code:
(Like all members of Congress, Cotton initially had health care under the Federal Employee Benefit Health Plan. Before Obamacare was passed, Sen. Chuck Grassley insisted on making members of Congress and their staff lose their employer contribution to their health insurance and sign up for coverage on an Obamacare exchange. As this amounts to a pay cut for staffers already making relatively low salaries, it has become quite controversial.)
For others the log-in page was pretty bad too. Here's David Freddoso, a columnist for the Washington Examiner:
Would be nice if we were discussing this disaster instead of a govt shutdown. Well played. pic.twitter.com/Abgjcquybz— David Freddoso (@freddoso) October 1, 2013
This is bad, but also expected, given that it's the very first day of the exchanges. On Monday, during his NPR interview, President Obama said we should all expect months of hiccups as the site's kinks get worked out.
In the first week, first month, first three months, I would suspect that there will be glitches. This is 50 states, a lot of people signing up for something. And there are going to be problems. And I guarantee you, there will be problems because we've got precedent. When Massachusetts, just one state, set this up, it took quite a long time. It took several months before everything was smoothed out. Of course, the same was true with Medicare and Social Security and every other social program that we've set up, the Children's Health Insurance Program.
Also, it's worth noting that the deadline for signing up for health insurance is not today, or even tomorrow. December 15 is the last day to sign up to be covered by January 1, but the sign up period extends until March. So maybe, instead of swamping the site on the first day, everyone should just chill. Then again, the Affordable Care Act is the issue at the center of the current government shutdown, and all of Obamacare's opponents might be feeling a little vindicated right about now.