Obamacare website glitches: Foreshadowing future issues?

The Obama administration is rolling out its Affordable Care Act website Tuesday morning.

It’s a big day for the Affordable Care Act -- and also a glitch-filled day.

Today was the first time Americans could sign up for health insurance via federal and state-run exchanges. But a host of problems, from website hiccups to unanswered telephone help lines, meant some people couldn’t actually sign up.

The glitches weren’t necessarily a surprise -- even the president warned there could very well be technical difficulties on the first day. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services reported they had 2.8 million visits to healthcare.gov on opening day.

For some, the technical difficulties meant the details of the health care plans are still a mystery.

"We still don’t know a lot about what the coverage will look like, so what the deductibles and co-pays for prescription drugs will be," says Larry Levitt from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

But computer glitches aren't the only reason confusion around Obamacare remains.

"How’s it really going to help? What’s it going to take? How much coverage can it give you?" asks Gwen Howell in Camden, N.J. She doesn’t have insurance and wonders, "Is it really gonna give you coverage?"

There’s been so much political noise around Obamacare, it’s hard for regular people to understand what’s going on. That should change going forward as word of mouth and government-led education initiatives spread. 

People like Gwen Howell will start to make their way to the exchanges – it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

But problems with the exchanges are bad advertising. At the end of the day, continued glitches could be a real problem in getting people signed up.

About the author

Dan Gorenstein is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Health Desk. You can follow him on Twitter @dmgorenstein.

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