UPDATED: Colo. exchange site briefly overwhelmed on 1st day

DENVER — Colorado opened its health exchange marketplace today after more than two years of planning — but the exchange website temporarily was overwhelmed by tens of thousands of visitors, briefly preventing consumers from creating new accounts.

The problem was resolved quickly, and Connect For Health Colorado executives said the first day went well, with 100,000 page views per hour through midafternoon. There were 3,000 phone calls to a call center set up to handle questions.

But the website ran a banner at midday advising consumers that new accounts couldn’t be opened because of a high volume of visitors — more than 34,500, according to spokesman Ben Davis. The problem was resolved shortly thereafter.

“As expected, we encountered several challenges when our system went live today,” exchange CEO Patty Fontneau said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. “These challenges were addressed quickly and efficiently with minimal impact on the customer experience.”

Customers who need health insurance can use the site to find out what their choices are, what their premiums will be and whether they qualify for subsidies to reduce their payments.

The exchange has taken out television ads promoting the site and has hired “navigators” statewide to explain the new shopping site to the uninsured.

Events were held today to rally attention for the site, perhaps none splashier than a promotion by Colorado HealthOP, a nonprofit health insurance cooperative. The cooperative hired scantily clad models to hand out flyers about the new exchange to pedestrians on a busy downtown Denver thoroughfare.

On a warm fall day, male and female models wore little except shorts with the message “GET COVERED CO” across the behinds.

Colorado officials insisted the state wouldn’t be affected by any potential federal shutdown prompted by a congressional stalemate over the health law. Colorado is one of 17 states that opted to create its own exchange, rather than rely on the federal government to run it.

President Barack Obama said Monday that a shutdown wouldn’t affect implementation of the health law in any state. Most of the law’s funding does not come from annual appropriations.

“That funding is already in place. You can’t shut it down,” Obama said.


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