State officials pinpoint technical problem with health exchange

Technicians pinpointed the cause of congestion on the new online health exchange where Marylanders can purchase insurance plans under Obamacare.

When people create an account at, they are routed to a federal questionnaire to give information to verify their identity. The logjam is occurring during that process, said Rebecca Pearce, executive director of the entity responsible for operating the exchange.

The root of the problem is a server issue combined with a high volume of people trying to use the exchange. About 130,000 people have visited the site, Pearce said.

"Our IT vendor is working literally around the clock to address the issue," Pearce said.

In the meantime, technicians disabled the account creation function on the website until the glitch is fixed. People who have an account can still shop for insurance.

It is unclear when the problem will be resolved.

"We are asking them to be meticulous about the process and make sure it is right," Pearce said.

Marylanders can create accounts by telephoning call centers (toll-free at 855-642-8572) or using various social service and community groups that have been tapped to help people enroll. Once the account is set up, people can log on to the website and shop for health plans on their own.

State officials warned about possible problems before the exchange launched Tuesday. They have said the bright side is that people are interested in getting insurance.

Advocacy group Healthy Howard Inc. said it was sticking to enrolling people with paper applications until the computer system was fixed. The group had completed 30 applications, responded to over 100 calls in its call center, and scheduled more than 30 appointments for enrollment.

Most people who get health insurance through their jobs won't see a change under Obamacare. But millions of uninsured, including 800,000 in Maryland, will have access to insurance through the state exchange — or pay a penalty if they choose not to buy it.

The state expects about 150,000 of the 800,000 uninsured Marylanders to buy insurance from the exchange in the first year. Another 100,000 are expected to gain coverage through an expansion of Medicaid.

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