(Bloomberg) — Consumers couldn’t access parts of the U.S. government’s online insurance exchange Monday, after a weekend of technical upgrades failed to eliminate delays in the hobbled system at the heart of the health care overhaul.
The federal website, meant to serve Americans in 36 states, was still delivering error messages to users trying to create an account saying the “system was unavailable.” In many of the 14 states running their own exchanges, including California and New York, the sites were operating, although New York’s had problems registering some consumers.
The exchanges debuted Oct. 1 and are supposed to help millions of uninsured Americans buy subsidized coverage under the Affordable Care Act. The federal site has been hamstrung by long waiting times and crashes, with the Obama administration blaming a surge of interest that far exceeded expectations.
“We can do better and we are working around the clock to do so,” said Joanne Peters, a spokeswoman for the federal Health and Human Services department. “We have seen progress but we continue to make improvements.”
The department said Oct. 4 that the federal healthcare.gov site would be taken down at non-peak hours over the weekend to add capacity. Online users would see “significant improvements” this week, Peters said in a statement that day.
Some state-run exchanges were operating better early today. Sites in Connecticut, California, Maryland and Washington enabled users to create an account and start applications without delays
Shares fell for health insurers that focus on lower-income Americans and are selling on the exchanges. Molina Healthcare Inc., based in Long Beach, California, slipped 2% to $35.97 at 10:41 a.m. New York time. St. Louis-based Centene Corp. dropped 1.4% to $64.66.
“Everyone has glitches now and then but they aren’t down for days,” says John Engates chief technology officer of San Antonio, Texas-based Rackspace Hosting Inc., which helps companies manage Internet traffic. “It can be avoided, the question is, can it be avoided in the context of something as complex and difficult to work with as the federal government and the health-care system.”
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