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Millions access online health insurance marketplace, some experience delays

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 2 2013 5:02 p.m. MDT

More than 4.7 million Americans accessed the federal health insurance marketplace on the first day of open enrollment Tuesday. (Shutterstock) More than 4.7 million Americans accessed the federal health insurance marketplace on the first day of open enrollment Tuesday. (Shutterstock)

SALT LAKE CITY — More than 4.7 million Americans accessed the federal health insurance marketplace in the first 24 hours of open enrollment.

But the number of people who actually enrolled was unknown Wednesday.

Many Utahns and others experienced hangups on the site, and federal officials say the slowdowns are due to high volume and not necessarily malfunctioning software, according to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The government-run website, www.healthcare.gov, is where consumers in 34 states can shop and compare a variety of health care plans. It is up and running through the ongoing partial government shutdown, as were help desks and call centers designated to answer questions from the public.

Call centers were inundated with more than 190,000 calls, and more than 104,000 Web chats were requested during the first day of marketplace availability.

The centers for Medicaid and Medicare expect similar volume throughout at least the first week the marketplace is available, leading to increased wait times. The agency, however, is planning continuing improvements, as well as added capacity to improve performance, a spokesman said Wednesday.

Consumers experiencing problems are asked to wait out any delays online and not refresh their browser, as users are queued up depending on when they accessed the site. The Medicaid and Medicare centers are also emphasizing that consumers have until Dec. 15 to sign up before coverage begins Jan. 1.

Enrollment for 2014 benefits remains open through March.

Medicare and Medicaid officials, many of whom are furloughed through the government shutdown, have yet to release numbers depicting how many Americans and Utahns actually enrolled in plans through the marketplace.

Email: wleonard@deseretnews.com Twitter: wendyleonards

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