Strong interest and online glitches continued for a second day Wednesday in a new insurance system for Pennsylvanians under President Barack Obama's signature health care law, making shopping and enrollment difficult.
Potential customers reported being unable to start choosing from among the 56 health insurance plans available to state residents on the federal government's online portal, healthcare.gov, called an insurance exchange or marketplace.
Coverage begins Jan. 1 and the initial enrollment period continues until March 31.
Cynette Fleming, a certified nurse's assistant, came to Independence Blue Cross' mobile health insurance center in Philadelphia after having trouble getting information from the government's website.
"Yesterday I was on there early in the morning and I was able to get a username and stuff," Fleming said. "But as far as the marketplace that they have, it keeps telling you to wait ... like it's overwhelmed."
Fleming, who has no health insurance, was among a steady stream of potential customers Wednesday at the mobile center parked at a strip mall in the Olney section of the city. On Tuesday, the first day it opened, the center had more than 120 visitors, company officials said.
Retiree Lucille Romano spent more than two frustrating hours at a Highmark retail insurance store in Allentown trying to create an account.
She seemed to get close—at one point, the system told her "Success!
Your account has been created." But it wouldn't allow her to take the next step. "Access denied," it said.
"It's day two of health care reform, and we have yet to have someone successfully register on the marketplace," said Matt Hadzick, manager of Highmark's Allentown store, where people could go to try to register for the online insurance marketplace. "The registration process is very slow, and at one point it just shuts down."
Romano was disgusted, but took it in stride.
"Maybe if they had asked Apple for help, they would've gotten this done right," she joked.
Pennsylvania is one of 36 states whose online exchanges are being run by the federal government after Gov. Tom Corbett, an opponent of the health care law, declined to take on the job.
Healthcare.gov is supposed to act as a clearinghouse for information on the 56 approved plans, such as how much they will cost and which doctors and hospitals each one covers. It also is the place where users can qualify for various federal subsidies that lower the cost of health insurance plans.
In Philadelphia, Marcella Rodriguez said she already has health insurance, but she sought information from Independence Blue Cross because she wanted to find out how a plan on the exchange might change her premium. It turned out her costs might go up, she said.
And Rodriguez is also worried about her adult daughter, who can't afford both car insurance and medical coverage.
"She pays car insurance. So it's either park the car, or get health insurance," Rodriguez said. "And she's healthy, but she's going to need insurance. So which way does she go, you know?"