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Colorado Health Exchange Gets Underway Oct. 1, But Not Without Glitches Seen Nationwide

After six years of planning for ways to improve healthcare throughout the state, the Connect for Health Colorado exchange opened as planned Oct. 1 and began disseminating information to uninsured state residents under the “Obamacare” program.

“It’s been a long history,” said Gretchen Hammer, chairwoman of the board for Colorado’s exchange. “The health care system isn’t meeting the needs of everyone in Colorado, and we want to work together to figure out how to make that happen.”

Things didn’t go exactly as planned Tuesday. Some 34,500 people logged onto the Colorado site in the first three hours, which meant accounts couldn’t be created in the early part of the day. By mid-afternoon fewer than 2,000 had been able to create accounts. Health exchanges nationwide reported similar logjams on their first day.

“As expected, we encountered several challenges when our system went live today,” exchange CEO Patty Fontneau said in a statement Tuesday. “These challenges were addressed quickly and efficiently with minimal impact on the customer experience.”

The exchange said that more than 57,000 residents had visited the site by late in the day and that 3,000 callers were given telephone assistance.

The White House reported that by 7 a.m. ET Tuesday, more than one million people had visited the main government Web site, healthcare.gov., causing delays.

Colorado is one of 16 states that chose to create its own exchange, and while Connect for Health Colorado experienced some glitches, it nonetheless provided information about various programs being offered, and users were able to “shop” for comparative prices.

“The main message we want to get out there is: Just give it a try,” says Kevin Finder, a health coverage guide at Metro Community Provider Network, a group of 16 healthcare centers in the Denver metropolitan area. “Look and see what financial assistance you’re going to get. Take a few minutes. You see how quickly the eligibility part went? And now it says we can go on to the next step and find a plan.”

Connect for Health Colorado says it will release the number of actual sign-ups for insurance on a weekly basis.

Mike Pearson is a 30-year veteran of newspaper and magazine journalism and former Features Editor at the Rocky Mountain News. He currently teaches journalism at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

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