Web issues not limited to federal health exchange

As a U.S. House committee on Thursday released some of the first details about how few people signed up for the Obama health law in early October – just a half dozen on the first day – web site troubles are not only occuring on healthcare.gov, as various states have also encountered issues with their internet sites which have held down the number of health insurance enrollments under the Obama health law.

Internal performance summaries made public by the House Oversight Committee show that only 6 people were able to sign up for insurance coverage on the first day the exchanges were open on October 1.

By the next morning, the number was up to “approximately 100.”

That jumped to 248 enrollments by the second day.

The documents detail a range of issues with the federal web site, including early concerns about how many consumers were unable to move through the site and try to buy health insurance plans.

“Consumer access issues are occurring,” read the report on the morning of October 2, “some estimates show 40,000 people in the waiting room.”

The release of the documents came soon after the Oversight Committee issued a subpoena to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for information; both Sebelius and Medicare chief Marilyn Tavenner had refused to provide data on enrollment numbers earlier this week when they testified before a pair of House committees.

As for healthcare.gov, the application and enrollment process finally resumed on the federal exchange web site after being down for 36 hours earlier this week – but evidence shows states are also having a lot of issues with their own efforts to sign up people for health insurance on the web.

“While we have been pleased with the interest in Maryland Health Connection, we have not been satisfied with the performance of Maryland’s health insurance website, or with the pace of improvements to the site since it launched on October 1,” read a statement issued this week by the Maryland exchange.

As of October 25, Maryland had only signed up 3,100 households for new insurance coverage through the exchange.

The Baltimore Sun reported this week that people would go through the exchange web site, filling in all the needed items, and then it would crash when you hit the “enroll” button.

Maryland’s contractor, Noridian Healthcare Services, is “is making a number of changes” in the web site to see if various glitches can be fixed.

Down the street in Washington, D.C., the exchange there made an unusual public plea for help from those who might have tried to sign up for coverage, but were unable to register on the D.C. web site.

“If you’ve had trouble enrolling, please tell us what the problem was so we can look into the issue,” DC Health Link wrote on Twitter.

As of last Friday, only 162 people had enrolled via the D.C. web site.

That came as healthcare.gov was finally back up and running on Thursday for the application and enrollment process, though some of my Twitter followers still reported they were running into issues.

That is still better than the state of Oregon’s exchange, which has not been able to enroll anyone via the internet in the first month of open enrollment because of problems on the site.

“Online enrollment is coming soon!” the message says on the Cover Oregon web site. “Sign-up to receive an email notification when it’s available.”

To the east in Idaho, the exchange is on line, but a combination of troubles on the state and federal web sites has hindered sign ups in the Gem State.

“Users of Idaho Health Insurance Exchange site hitting snags,” read a headline this week in the Idaho State Journal.

Now that November is finally here, it is expected that the 14 states and Washington, D.C. which are running their own exchanges will finally start reporting more enrollment data – along with the federal government.

Look for lawmakers to again press federal officials for some concrete numbers next week. Senate committees will hear from the Medicare chief on Tuesday and the Health Secretary on Wednesday.

By then we’ll see if the kinks have been worked out of healthcare.gov and a number of state exchange web sites.