Insurance marketplace overloaded on first day

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OLATHE, Kan. -- The health insurance marketplace is open, but delays and error messages plagued the first day of the online federal exchange. A government spokesperson said the system was overwhelmed with unexpectedly high volume, and that more capacity has been added.

FOX 4's Meryl Lin McKean was with one metro woman, Hannah Keepes, and her navigator who tried for two-and-a-half hours to shop on the exchange.

With old-fashioned pen and paper, Keepes filled out an application for the health insurance marketplace. The Gardner woman attempted to create an online account, but got this message: "Your account couldn't be created at this time. Try again."

"It is a national roll-out of a federal plan, right? So hitches and glitches, we kinda expected that," said Caitlin Zibers, a navigator who helped Keepes at Health Partnership Clinic in Olathe.

After completing the paperwork, they tried again online.

"It's just backlogged, that's all," said Zibers.

Keepes asked if she'll have to fill out information online again.

"Looks like it," said Zibers.

So they go to the phone -- the call center for the marketplace.

"Your estimated wait time is 15 minutes," said a recording.

"Shorter than this morning," said Zibers.

Keepes can wait. She's uninsured with migraines and other health problems. The marketplace is her chance to get insurance.

"It's very important for me to be treating that effectively, and I have not been able to since I don't have insurance," said Keepes.

After 14 minutes, a live person at the call center took Keepes' income and other information. Now she can either wait to find out by mail whether she qualified for subsidies, or she can try later to create the online account.

"You have to have a lot of patience," said Keepes.

She'd hoped to see how much various insurance plans will cost her. No answers on this day. Zibers did give her an estimate of $61 a month for her premium in a silver or mid-range plan.

"I believe I could budget that in," said Keepes.

She'll be back to meet with Zibers another day.

This was just the first day of a six-month enrollment period. But if you want coverage to begin January 1, you'll need to be enrolled by December 15.

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