Opening day for Obamacare in Kentucky had substantial glitches as many Kentuckians trying to get health insurance through Kynect.Ky.Gov were greeted with the message that there was a problem with logging in.
Logging in to the website is the first step in enrolling for coverage. State officials said high volumes of users were causing the problems, and they issued a mid-morning news release saying more than 24,000 people had browsed Kentucky's health insurance website before 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. About 57,000 people had browsed by 4 p.m.
Although there were technical glitches, 1,000 applications had been processed by 9:30 a.m., according to Gwenda Bond, a spokeswoman for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. The total was at 1,235 by Tuesday afternoon.
Tuesday was the first day that 640,000 uninsured Kentuckians had a chance to sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare. The majority will sign up for health care through Kynect.Ky.Gov.
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For most of the day, a large yellow box sat at the top of the home page of Kynect.Ky.Gov, the hub of implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Kentucky, explaining the login problems and asking for "patience and continued support."
A mid-afternoon check by the Herald-Leader showed a snapshot of how the nationwide system was working. Kentucky is among 17 states creating its own programs. Visits to the websites for those other states showed that nine of those 17 states were having technical problems.
Mel Moser of Lexington said he is a supporter of the program but was flummoxed while trying to navigate it Tuesday through Kynect.Ky.Gov. He said he felt as if he was racing against a timer after receiving several messages that he was taking too long to sign in.
Moser said he was directed to a page completely unrelated to health insurance.
The page, he said, "lists contact information for three child/family support sites and, I swear I'm not making this up, for Kentucky's Electronic Death Registration System."
Kathryn Jarvis Gray of Flemingsburg said she tried to get on the site about 9 a.m. Tuesday and had no luck. She got through to the call center and was told that it would be two to four hours before the site was back up. Gray, a self-employed caregiver, and her husband, a welder, need insurance, she said. So she'll try again.
"We are just regular people; we live paycheck to paycheck," she said. "It will be hard to make another payment" for health insurance, she said. She knows coverage is important.
State officials would not offer estimates of how many people might access the site Tuesday. Bond said, "The surge of early applications demonstrates the pent-up demand for quality health coverage."
Lexington freelance writer Andrew Shaffer was in that early surge and on the site at 12:01 a.m. and finished signing up for health insurance at 1:30 a.m., he said. He got several error messages and kicked off the site once, he said, but "I was just so excited to sign up, I had to keep going."
Shaffer signed up for a plan for himself for $350 a month, $100 less than he was paying as someone who is self-employed. He said he skipped the option to check whether he was eligible for discounts or tax credits because he assumed his income would make him ineligible for subsidized care.
Cara Stewart, a health advocate for the Kentucky Equal Justice Center, said she was hearing some shock over the cost of care. She said those applying were looking at the "sticker price" and not adding the discounts and subsidies that might be available to them.
"They aren't actually continuing (on the side) to get the actual amount they would pay," she said.
Kentucky had not released the full range of the cost of premiums until Tuesday.
Others, Stewart said, were worried that if they didn't sign up for Medicaid today, the wouldn't get coverage. Enrollment continues through March, and all plans, including Medicaid, will be available the entire time.