GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Though the federal government shutdown did not affect the launch of the online health insurance marketplace, the site itself proved not able to handle the massive traffic.
The online insurance exchange, a major part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), launched as planned Tuesday. The ACA is also referred to as Obamacare.
Various error pages popped up all day as 24 Hour News 8 tried to log on to healthcare.gov, create an account and log on. One of the most frequent error pages asked website users to “please wait.”
Local experts on the health plan told 24 Hour News 8 they had been getting errors, too. One estimated the site went down sometime between 8 and 9 a.m.
President Barack Obama addressed the errors people had been having in an address to the nation Tuesday afternoon.
“We’re going be speeding things up in the next few hours to handle all this demand that exceeds anything that we had expected,” Obama said.
He proceeded to liken the new insurance marketplace to any other new program.
“Consider that just a couple of weeks ago, Apple rolled out the new mobile operating system and within days they found a glitch and they fixed it. I don't remember anybody suggesting Apple should stop selling iPhones or iPads or threatening to shut down the company if they didn't. That's not how we do things in America," he said.
Healthcare.gov does have a toll free help line and there are local resources available, like Cherry Street Health Services, that provide aid.
The marketplace assistance center at Cherry Street had the region’s navigator on hand, as well as a couple of certified application counselors to handle the dozens of phone calls Tuesday.
Many in-person appointments were rescheduled for next week because the site went down so early in the day.
"It is kind of frustrating because you are trying to get a jump on things get this going and you know you're unable to," region navigator Michelle Fitzgerald said. "But an important thing to remember is if you want your coverage to start on January 1st, you have until December 15 to get online."
Fitzgerald said their program will be around for the long haul, even if users have to wait a few days to log back on and compare plans.
She also said, when asked, that she hopes people don't judge the insurance exchange based on the fact the site stopped working Tuesday. She likened it to trying to get on the Internal Revenue Service's website on tax day.
When 24 Hour News 8 asked her, Fitzgerald confirmed it’s a valid concern that some people may be so frustrated that they simply put off getting their insurance in order.
"I think this a very realistic concern, because it is frustrating,” said Fitzgerald. "I think that once people are able to log on, the application is pretty streamlined and pretty basic, so I think that process, once you're actually on there, it's not going to be as hard as people worry."
While healthcare.gov has updated its local help section since Target 8 found it was directing people in Grand Rapids to Grant in Newaygo County, Cherry Street still doesn't pop up as a local resource, even though the region's navigator is there.
Kent County leaders told 24 Hour News 8 they weren't surprised by Gary Rolls Jr.'s resignation from the Kent County Commission Thursday, but those that would comment were happy with the decision.
Michigan lawmakers passed a flurry of bills on the last day of voting in 2013.
Grand Rapids has fully recovered from the recession, according to research done by the W.E. Upjohn Institute.