By Maureen McKinney, Crain News Service
WASHINGTON (Oct. 2, 2013) — It was a less than smooth start for the federal government's health insurance marketplace in 36 states, as heavy traffic to its website caused delays and system issues.
The marketplace — fully or partly operated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) — opened amid a congressional budget standoff and a government shutdown.
A visit to the site at 10 a.m. EDT was met with the message: "The system is down at the moment. We're working to resolve the issue as soon as possible. Please try again later."
A second attempt, made 15 minutes later, was met with the message: "Health Insurance Marketplace: Please wait. We have a lot of visitors on our site right now and we're working to make your experiences here better. Please wait here until we send you to the login page. Thanks for your patience!"
In remarks delivered at the White House Oct. 1, President Barack Obama said the site had more than one million visits before 7 a.m.—five times more visitors than have ever been on Medicare.gov at one time.
Many experts had predicted technical glitches at the outset, warning that the flood of new enrollees would likely overwhelm the federal government's site.
Sixteen states including the District of Columbia are operating their own state insurance exchanges.