By Chad Terhune
7:53 PM EDT, October 2, 2013
California's health insurance exchange vastly overstated the number of online hits it received Tuesday during the rollout of Obamacare.
State officials said the Covered California website got 645,000 hits during the first day of enrollment, far fewer than the 5 million it reported Tuesday.
The state exchange had cited the 5 million figure as a sign of strong consumer interest and a major reason people had so much difficulty using its $313-million online enrollment system.
Dana Howard, a spokesman for Covered California, said the error was the result of internal miscommunication.
"Someone misspoke and thought it was indeed 5 million hits. That was incorrect," he said.
Howard said the revised Web traffic still represents a huge response. He said the number of unique online visitors Tuesday was 514,000 and the state received 19,000 calls.
Meantime, Californians were still running into computer problems and long hold times during the second day of enrollment under the federal healthcare law.
Those glitches have prompted Covered California to shut down its online enrollment system twice.
First, the state took it down from 9 p.m. Tuesday until 7 a.m. Wednesday to make technical fixes. Then Covered California took enrollment offline for two hours Wednesday morning because information on health plans wasn't loading properly, according to the state.
These problems could frustrate consumers and hamper enrollment efforts. California is trying to sign up more than 2 million people through next year, the most of any state.
Some consumers said they were able to create an account on the state's website at www.coveredca.com, but the system crashed after that.
People calling for information continued to face wait times of 30 minutes or more. Some call-center representatives at the exchange told people they were having trouble accessing the state system themselves, further slowing down the enrollment process.
State officials say they are taking steps to remedy these service issues. California has about 300 people answering calls now, and it plans to add an additional 150 employees next month at a call center opening in Fresno.
Supporters of the healthcare law said there's still time to iron out problems before coverage takes effect Jan. 1 on these new exchange plans. Enrollment runs through March 31.
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