Buzz about Obamacare exposes bugs in the system

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The websites should allow consumers to compare the plans, which range from low-cost “bronze” insurance with minimal coverage to high-cost “platinum” programs.

Jon M. Hager, executive director of Nevada’s market, said roughly one-fourth of residents in his state were uninsured for a laundry list of reasons, but that obstacles to affordable coverage would fall away through Obamacare.

He said a Spanish-language version of the Nevada exchange will not be ready until November — officials are building it from the ground up to avoid problems from translating the English version — and warned that there will be “hiccups, errors and other bugs that occur.”

Members of his staff checked in on the state’s online portal after reporters on a conference call said they could not log on at the hour the site was supposed to go live. The delay lasted 17 minutes.

“I apologize for that,” Mr. Hager said.

By midafternoon, the Nevada exchange counted more than 1,000 accounts on the site.

The Department of Health and Human Services said Tuesday that all customers can look up information and start the enrollment process through the federal website — or CuidadoDeSalud.gov for Spanish-speaking consumers — no matter where they live.

A D.C. resident, for example, would be directed to the D.C. Health Link Web page, but a resident across the Potomac River in Virginia would remain on the federal site because the Obama administration is responsible for the commonwealth’s exchange.

Soft opening

In the midst of Tuesday’s hiccups, advocates for the law said it should be considered a soft opening with increased interest over time. They touted early interest on the federal exchanges as “pent-up demand” and a backhand endorsement of Obamacare, despite the error messages.

“To me that says, ‘Whoa, everyone’s checking this out,’” said Will Wilson. The 59-year-old Chicago resident said he has AIDS but could not, until Obamacare began, obtain coverage related to any other health issues.

The health care law prevents insurers from rejecting people with pre-existing conditions, a key selling point of the law that also has raised questions about whether younger, healthy people are effectively subsidizing the care of older, sicker patients in the individual market.

Republicans tried to delay key portions of Obamacare last week and into Monday night, but the Senate balked at any negotiations over the president’s signature law. The resulting government shutdown did not affect the administration’s rollout of the exchanges.

Mila Kofman, executive director of the D.C. Health Benefit Exchange Authority, said the fervor about a mile down the road on Capitol Hill was irrelevant to her team’s efforts.

“For us,” she said, “it’s never been political.”

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