HELENA – The first day of shopping for health insurance on Montana’s “Obamacare” marketplace was one of frustration for potential users Tuesday, as the online shopping site didn’t work properly.

Shoppers trying to create an account on healthcare.gov ran into delays, with messages of “Please wait,” and usually couldn’t get past the initial registration steps to create an account and start shopping for subsidized policies.

Health insurers selling policies on the Internet marketplace and state Insurance Commissioner Monica Lindeen said the site apparently crashed because of heavy traffic, and urged Montanans to be patient.

“I’m going to continue to say what I’ve been saying at public meetings around the state (within the last week) – that I think we all expected there will be glitches,” Lindeen said.

Lindeen said consumers can still study up on the available policies, and should “hang back for a couple of days” and then perhaps revisit the site to attempt to sign up and shop.

John Doran, director of strategic marketing services for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana, said the company is advising consumers that there’s plenty of time to sign up for policies.

Policies on the marketplace don’t become effective until Jan. 1 anyway, he said, and consumers have until Dec. 15 to buy a policy starting that date and until March 31 to get a policy that meets the federal mandate to have health insurance by 2014.

“We continue to remind customers that they have until next year, and that we’ll be here to help them throughout the process, from Oct. 1 until the final deadline,” Doran said.

The Internet marketplace is a linchpin of the Affordable Care Act, the 2010 law that aims to expand health coverage to the millions of Americans without it.

The law requires nearly all Americans to have or buy health insurance by 2014 and the marketplace offers subsidized policies to most people earning between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level.

Marketplaces exist in each state and Tuesday was their opening day – but problems were reported across the country, as interest in the marketplaces exceeded expectations, health and insurance officials said.

The federal government constructed and is operating the Montana marketplace, after the 2011 Montana Legislature, controlled by Republicans, refused to authorize state construction of the site.

***

Lindeen, a Democrat, said she was able to get onto the site early Tuesday morning and sign in. But later in the morning and throughout the day, the site wasn’t working.

Consumers often were met initially with a message that said “Please wait. We have a lot of visitors on our site right now and we’re working to make your experience better.”

After a wait of 10 minutes or more, the site allowed users to begin the registration process, but faltered when it required users to answer security questions that would not appear.

Lindeen, who said she communicated with fellow insurance commissioners throughout the day, said it appeared most of the problems occurred in states where the federal government was operating the marketplace.

U.S. Senate Republicans’ press office released reports Tuesday showing widespread problems with the state-based marketplaces, and a spokesman for the state Republican Party said Obamacare should be replaced with a “free-market alternative that lets Montanans make their own choices about buying health care, rather than trying to push people to buy in a government-approved manner.”

“Senator (Max) Baucus said that the implementation of Obamacare could be a train wreck, and he was right,” said Bowen Greenwood, executive director of the state GOP. “Obamacare doesn’t help Montanans.”

Baucus spokeswoman Jennifer Donohue said Tuesday that Baucus,

D-Mont., the chief author of the law, is fully supportive of the law and has been tough on the Obama administration's implementation efforts because he wants to make sure Montanans can take advantage of the law's benefits.

“Folks who really care about Montana working families would put them ahead of politics and spend their energy working with Max to improve the law and make it work better for Montana instead of shutting down the government in order to send us back to the days when insurance companies could deny coverage to kids because they were sick,” she said.

Insurers and Lindeen, however, said the rush of customers that crashed the system show there’s a high interest in the marketplace and what it has to offer.

“I think it tells you that people are desperate for good (health) insurance,” said Lindeen. She noted that she was met by packed houses at public meetings she conducted last week across the state, to explain the marketplaces and Obamacare.

Jerry Dworak, CEO of the new Montana Health Co-op, which is selling policies on the marketplace, said the company was besieged with callers and emails Tuesday asking about its policies and the marketplace. Some people went ahead and bought policies, without subsidies, which are available only if you buy through the online marketplace, he said.

“’I’ve never seen anything like it out there in my life,” he said. “It’s like a campaign commercial for the Democratic Party.”

Missoulian State Bureau reporter Mike Dennison can be reached at 1-800-525-4920 or by email at mike.dennison@lee.net.

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(26) comments

Mslas4kids

Who pays for healthcare?

Pre-Obamacare:
Private insurance, employer based insurance, Medicaid, Medicare paid for by taxes, deductions from pay, and the backs of American workers.

With Obamacare:
Private insurance, employer-based insurance, Medicaid, Medicare, health-care exchanges paid for by deductions from pay, and the backs of American workers

Who gets affordable healthcare?

Pre-Obamacare:
Those with private insurance, employer-based insurance, Medicaid, Medicare and cash paying patients

With Obamacare:
Those with private insurance will see premiums rise, co-pays increase, and will have less affordable healthcare. Medicaid and Medicare will also become less affordable. Those on health care exchanges will be able to get insurance, at the cost of those that already had it. Cash paying for healthcare will become illegal/impossible.

Bottom line:
Healthcare in this country is paid for on the backs of those that produce and earn. Obamacare redistributes the workers’ earnings to all, just as Medicaid has done for years, and as Medicare (at least since the 1990s) becomes the only insurance option for healthcare for the retired.

Whether it comes out of a worker’s paycheck and goes to the employer-based insurance or to the U.S. government, the American worker loses income and “invests in America”.

The American worker does not understand why others can’t earn or save for their own insurance, but instead rely on his/her income to survive, without any accountability.

Slave labor, anyone?

The current argument is “we must do something to provide crucial healthcare for everyone”.

It should be: “How do we get more people to be earners/savers/self-sufficient, and decrease the number of takers/moochers/welfare recipients.”

That requires: Bolstering the family unit, increasing the economy, teaching financial independence, never supplying a safety net without a ‘weaning plan’ for using it.

If we value people, really value the person, we help them along the path to self-sufficiency.

If we value people for their vote, for their money, for how we can ‘use them,’ we make them dependent, and take away any drive for self-determination.

The fight over Obamacare/Universal healthcare, etc., is a paradigm for the most important issue for our country: do we become one of the world’s ‘entitlement states’, or do we maintain a tradition of freedom, including self-determination.

Increase the economy first, then afford healthcare for all. Make it less desirable to be unemployed and more desirable to produce.

lightninsam
lightninsam

Intelligent and informative comments here, but, there are also those from the antis.

VoteInYourBestInterest

In an attempt to avoid all the drama and misinformation and hopefully be more sensible about this. There was a presidential election held in which the "Affordable Care Act" was the main focus. Obama was re-elected, the Democrats retained control of the U.S. Senate, and this act became law. While I strongly support the rights of people to object to this law, the fact remains it is the law. If you want laws changed to support your particular view, then become politically active in support of candidates you feel best represent your point of view. But don't act to dissolve our democracy by shutting down the government and adversely impact the lives of millions of Americans. My family needs healthcare because I'm self-employed and my wife's employer doesn't offer healthcare coverage. I need more affordable options that don't currently exist on the "open market", and this law is providing me and millions of others a better opportunity to protect our families.

To address a previous comment about Obama's endorsement of the term "Obamacare", here's an exact quote: "I have no problem with folks saying, 'Obama cares.' I do care. If the other side wants to be the folks that don't care, that's fine with me.” — President Barack Obama, responding to the Republicans’ use of the term Obamacare, Aug. 2011

jus wundrin
jus wundrin

The country, well it once was, a constitutionally limited republic. And yes, its hard to vote against the easter bunny and santa clause. When you have to rely on da gubment for your every want and need, its called slavery.

When the economy collapses under its enormous debt, or you have to wait weeks for a procedure that will save your life, it wont matter much anyway.

Ill see you in the bread line.

Gomez

Juswundrin what your suggestion would be to fix what was one of the most inefficient healthcare systems in the world would be? We know what you don't like. Now tell us what your solution would be.

lightninsam
lightninsam

I have to wonder how many of these folks, like ones asked o tv, hate Obamacare but like the ACA?

gadflyohsofly

It's okay to call it Obamacare. The president has said he is proud of it and likes the way that sounds.

VoteInYourBestInterest

This article is full of inaccurate information starting with the title: It's not "Obamacare" it's a law passed by our elected representatives called the "Affordable Care Act". Secondly, it's not "Montana's Obamacare website" that's having issues, It's the national site that people from 36 states are forced to share because state legislatures (largely Republican) refused to setup local exchanges and this means millions of people have to go to the same national site forcing a huge overload. Finally, there are a lot of people out there like me who need a healthcare solution because we are self-employed or our employer doesn't offer insurance.Shutting down the government is NOT an alternative solution for the 40 million people who don't have health insurance. It only serves to worsen the burden by putting more people out of work.

Sukey

40 million people in the US are uninsured or under-insured and are logging onto the websites to get affordable health care/insurance. That's why these sites are crashing, because of the pentup demand to not die if you become ill. Why should old people get medicare, poor people get medicaid, kids get CHIPS, veterans get VA and the working poor and self-employed GET NOTHING? We've been subsidizing corporate employees and government employees with lower health insurance costs for decades. Its payback time, and at last this disenfranchised mass (working poor and mom/pop businesses) don't have to make a choice between dying or losing their home to stay alive. Shame on all you people who got yours and want everyone else to die.

familytruckster

But you have gone on record in support of those morons in Ravalli refusing the funds that supported the women's health clinic.

What a contradictory double standard!

Sukey

Actually, I'm very consistent. As I've said all along, these women will get their STD checkups, their birth control and all their other services under Obamacare, rather than through title X. How many government agencies does this country need with overlapping services?

jus wundrin
jus wundrin

Well said.

johnny Dollar

Nope! If they are UNDER the FEDERAL POVERTY level ($16000/single .....$32500/Family)....they do NOT qualify for O'bamacare. There are millions an millions UNDER the poverty line.

Gomez

Who would have gained the most politically if the ACA was a complete failure? The GOP. They could ride the coattails of "We told you so!" for the next 20 years.

Who has been frantically trying to kill the ACA? The GOP.

Once you stand back and look at the whole picture it's easy to see. The GOP isn't afraid of the ACA being a failure. They're afraid of it being a success. Once the uninsured can get insurance, the sick can gain access to treatment (other than midnight visits to the emergency room) & it's shown to be a much more cost efficient system everyone is going to see the GOP for what they are. Either outright liars or, at the very least, a party that has very poor judgment & foresight.

familytruckster

Amen, Gomez.

johnny Dollar

Right Gomez.......I think we see the CLEAR SIGNS of your "SUCCESS" already

> Thousands have lost their jobs due to Obamacare
> Millions have had hours cut
> My premiums went up 25%, thank-you OCARE
> All the exchanges are MALfunctioning
>
And lest you say "No body told me"......let me be clear, this is one BIG step to SINGLE PAYER healthcare.....no insurance companies, no choice....just one government option.

johnny Dollar

On the other hand......the government has DONE SO WELL ON THE BIG PROGRAMS!

*MEDICARE (NIGHTMARE)
* SOCIAL SECURITY (NOT SECURE.....THEY SPENT THE TRUST FUNDS)
* POST OFFICE (DON'T TELL ME THEY ARE NOT GOVERNMENT)
* IRS - THESE GUYS ARE WONDERFUL AND FAIR
* BORDER SECURITY _ NOT WORKING.......BY DESIGN
* TSA - YEP....GET YOUR "JUNK" PROCESSED BY THEIR LOVING HANDS

FACT - OBAMACARE CONTRIBUTOR MAX BAUCUS SAYS IT IS A TRAINWRECK

Joseph From Missoula

Medicare is in trouble for 2 reasons: Healthcare costs are higher in the US than anywhere in the world; and baby-boomers are turning 65. Both can be fixed by changing the healthcare system, which Obamacare tries to do, and charging rich people payroll taxes on their investment income, like dividends.

Social Security isn't in trouble at all for at least 20 years, which can be fixed by raising the cap on income subject to payroll taxes. Right now every dollar over $106,000 earned is free of payroll tax obligations.

The Post Office is a great service. I've never lost a piece of mail, ever -- and I'm 73 years old. I know of no-one who has ever lost mail, and delivery is always prompt. The financial problems are all about congressional Republicans not funding it properly.

The IRS is under-staffed, again because of congressional Republicans.

Border security IS working.

TSA -- well, you may have a point there

When did Baucus say that?

Gomez

The site(s) were overwhelmed nationwide because so many people tried to sign up. For the uninsured, this program is literally a lifesaver. It won't fix everything at once (it wasn't intended to) and there will be adjustments that have to be made but 20 years from now we'll look back and wonder why we waited so long to fix our healthcare system. And yes, the dems will own it. All of it. And everyone will remember fought tooth & nail against it.

jus wundrin
jus wundrin

"And yes, the dems will own it. All of it."

.....and please remember that. BTW the dems died out a long time ago, theyre now called progressives.

Gomez

Not only will I remember it, the rest of the country will as well.

walter12

You foolish people out there. Wait to you see the reality of the madness called ObamaCare. When you see what you actually have to pay yourself, the shortages, the doctors that quit, the long lines, the waiting for service, the confusion, and the coming rationing.

Gomez

Let's take your objections one a time.

"When you see what you actually have to pay yourself"

Insurance rates were skyrocketing and completely out of control (to the point of being unaffordable for many) long before President Obama took office. If rates rise dramatically I am quite sure it will be addressed. Before the ACA was passed we were the most expensive healthcare system in the world yet ranked only # 37 in the world as far as the health of our citizens.

"the shortages"

? There will shortages because too many people will be going to the doctor? That tells me that they are sick right now & the only reason they are not able to go to the doctor is because it is unaffordable. If you rather turn them away at the door, OK. But I think we're a better country than that.

"the doctors that quit"

Yes, some doctors might quit in a huff. They will be replaced by other doctors who will be quite happy to provide services to the people while making a more than comfortable (deservedly) lifestyle.

"the long lines, the waiting for service,"

Again, if someone is sick, they are sick. Since our system is one of supply & demand if it turns out more doctors are needed then it will be a great profession to go into & that will get taken care of all by itself.

"the confusion, and the coming rationing."

You saved the best for last! : ) Have you ever tried to fill out insurance paperwork on a hospital admittance form? Enough said. As far as rationing, again, what world are you living in? Health care is/was/has always been rationed by health insurers. Read that big book they send you once a year, which is mainly a listing of what is not covered.


Stan Reck
Stan Reck

The Democrats are all clowns. They own this just like they own the shutdown.

MontanaJim72

I'm pretty sure there wouldn't be this much demand unless people wanted health insurance. That is the reason why the tea party tried to shut it down. Once the new health care law takes effect, the tea party will have no voice and they know it. The tea party will not be a factor in any election after this. Even Fox News can't help them, although they sure are trying.

Larry Lewis

Does this surprise anyone that the Obamacare website doesn't work. Nothing this guy does works right. And yes, it is a campaign commercial for the Democrat party. Not one Republican voted for this debacle so it is wholly owned by the Democrats. Let's see how it works for them come election time.

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