Three insurance companies confirmed
While completed signups at
As it did on the first two days of the online enrollment under the health law, the Obama administration blamed the delays on overwhelming volume, but analysts suggested software design might also be a problem.
"This is not solely a traffic issue," said
Startup headaches aren't unusual for systems of such size and complexity, but delays could hinder enrollment if they don't ease significantly by the end of next week, the analysts said.
"We will have a sense by the end of next Friday (
Insurers are increasingly promoting their own websites as alternative venues for consumers to compare plans and even create accounts for later follow-up. Although shoppers may also see non-marketplace plans on those insurers' websites, only exchange plans are eligible for the federal tax credits to reduce the cost of coverage.
Consumers lacking health insurance have until
The Obama administration said it was working hard to fix the problems that it continued to attribute to high demand.
"Experts are working around the clock and were able to expand system capacity somewhat overnight, cutting by one-third the volume of people waiting to apply," said a spokeswoman for the
But others suggested that design flaws seem to be at least partly to blame for the headaches.
Difficulty setting up security questions and other problems encountered by users "are technical issues, not [just] volume," Schuyler said. "What it comes down to is there wasn't enough time to thoroughly test the systems."
"This is not a glitch. A glitch is a minor problem," said
More than a dozen states constructed their own portals for the policies sold to individuals, families and small businesses. Many were reported to be working better than the federal site, partly because they allow shoppers to browse plans without going through the trouble of creating an account, which reduces the burden on the servers.
Besides being unable to enroll in plans, consumers in the 36 states dependent on the federal exchanges can't get basic information about their insurance options.
In comparison, it takes less than 20 seconds to start shopping for a health plan on the
"It was part of our plan to make the site as user friendly and non-intimidating as possible," he said.
While many insurers have declined to furnish enrollment numbers, some say the federal site has worked for at least a few customers.
"We're beginning to see people enroll as of last night,"
Unlike some other insurers, the
Aetna also confirmed it had enrolled consumers from the federal system, but did not disclose any numbers.
The nation's largest health insurer, UnitedHealthcare, did not respond to requests for information.
"Most people are going to look on the exchange and see what plans are out there and at some point they'll want to go beyond the exchange to the portals of the carriers they're interested in," Mondy said.
There were continued widespread reports of consumer frustration with the federal signup process on Twitter, Facebook and other social media.
Currently, he has a catastrophic plan that pays for only three doctor visits a year.
On the federal exchange, he picked a gold-level plan, one of the most expensive options, and a premium of
"I'm thrilled," he says. "To get something this good at that price? It was a complete surprise."
Waiting to sign up until next week or later might be the best idea for many consumers, analysts said.
"It's not like tickets to a hot concert … You have until
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