Thirty Obamacare Fails
Across the country, the law’s new online marketplaces have hit major snags.

Error screen on the website.



This probably wasn’t the way President Obama wanted the first week of his signature policy initiative to go.

The health-care law’s new online marketplaces, or “exchanges,” stumbled out of the block last week as reports of long wait times, stalled websites, and repeated error messages popped up across the country. Not only were most users unable to purchase the individual-market plans offered for the first time on October 1, but various bugs and glitches prevented visitors from even getting onto the sites meant to sell them — especially the federally run marketplaces set up for the 26 states not running their own. The Obama administration has been shifty about both the cause of the sites’ sluggishness as well as the total enrollment numbers up to this point, which has only added to the embarrassment around the unveiling.

Here are some of the biggest “fails” from both the federal and state-run sites from the past week:

1. 99 Percent of Obamacare Applications Hit a Wall
Nearly every application on the federal exchanges either failed to sufficiently submit the necessary information or was inadequately processed due to issues with the website and its software. Several health-insurance industry sources told CNBC that as few as 1 in 100 applications on the site contain enough information for someone to enroll. This flub could result in large numbers of would-be enrollees believing they’ve signed up for a plan for next year. One data-company CEO dismissed claims that the glitches were due to high traffic: “This is not a traffic issue. Right now, the systems aren’t working.”

2. Media’s Favorite Obamacare Enrollee Didn’t Actually Enroll
Chad Henderson drew tons of attention from top media outlets when the Obama administration identified him as a successful enrollee on the federal exchanges, only for it to be revealed by his father that he did not, in fact, enroll. Reason’s Peter Suderman tracked down the elder Henderson, who was surprised by the news of his son’s supposed accomplishment. Chad, a 21-year-old Georgia resident, was also discovered to be an Obama and OFA volunteer, and even said on his Facebook page that he was paid quarterly “to post political stuff as ‘advocacy,’” which he later said was just a joke. Henderson tried to clarify that by “enroll” he meant that he had submitted an application without actually picking a plan, and blamed the media for not understanding what he meant. Reporters had seized on Henderson’s story because they could not track down anyone else who’d successfully enrolled on the federal exchanges.

3. Shutdown During Off-Peak Weekend Hours
The Department of Health and Human Services announced on Friday, just four days after its launch, that the federal site would be unavailable during off-peak hours throughout the weekend in order to address several glitches.

4. MSNBC Anchor Can’t Access Obamacare Exchange
On the morning of the exchange’s rollout, MSNBC’s Mara Schiavocampo ran into problems many people across the country were experiencing: online error messages, long wait times, and sitting on hold for extended periods of time when she called for customer support. “If I were signing up for myself, this is where my patience would be exhausted,” she said before she eventually gave up.

5. Arkansas Kick-Off Event Resorts to Paper Applications
Two hundred visitors to the University of Arkansas School of Public Health’s opening event for the state’s federally run health-care exchange were forced to take up pen and paper because the website wasn’t working. “You go through all this training for this, and then you can’t put it in action, so it’s frustrating,” one Obamacare “navigator” told the state’s Southwest Times Record.

6. Woman Who Stood Behind Obama on Marketplace Rollout Date: Website “Not So Great”
Jean Beigel, one of the handful of people selected to flank President Obama during his remarks about the exchanges on their October 1 launch date, told the Washington Post she had given up on trying to sign up for coverage for the moment, after two failed attempts, because of the website’s slow loading time. She described the process as “a little confusing” and “not so great.”

7. California Overstates Web Traffic to Site
Covered California trumpeted evidence of  the site’s popularity, or at least what it thought was evidence of popularity. State officials said Day One had seen 5 million hits to the site, before having to walk back the number to a much lower 645,000. A spokesperson said “someone misspoke” in the initial announcement.


Obamacare Exchange Glitches
The official launch of Obamacare's health insurance exchanges on October 1 turned into a glitch-ridden affair, causing a scramble for tech support and media spin by backers of the law. Here’s a look at what users encountered. Pictured, the main page at the federal site.
Further embarrassing administration officials were several on-air crashes as newscasters tried to demonstrate the online exchanges. Pictured, MSNBC reporter Mara Schiavocampo stumbled during sign-up, then waited on hold on a support line for 35 minutes before giving up. was beset with a number of issues, from general access problems to database breakdowns that frustrated attempts to set up accounts and peruse rate information.
More broken screens at
Confirming fears about security of personal information, screens meant to establish security questions on user accounts to verify identity were not providing valid question and answer options.
Those who braved the online tech support were met with long wait times. Whether the delays were caused by simultaneous traffic or deeper software problems remains unclear.
Federal officials reported that 2.8 million visitors access the federal site, with some 81,000 contacting call centers and 60,000 requesting live support chats. Pictured, live-chat window at
Administration officials tweeted apologies for the technical issues early on Tuesday, but users reported continuing problems throughout the day.
Those states that set up their own exchanges also experienced a range of launch-day glitches. Pictured, problems at Colorado's exchange prompted this note from administrators.
Database error code seen at the Colorado exchange.
Apology message at the Kentucky exchange.
Error screen at New York's exchange site. Another user tweeted: “Logged onto the New York State healthcare exchange, got this: ‘Error 500: java.lang.NullPointerException’ (@marykissel)
“Cover Oregon, the insurance exchange, won’t be ready to process enrollment on schedule tomorrow. (@jjcooper)
“#ObamaCare exchanges open today and #WA State’s website isn’t even working. Precursor to the complications to come. (@cathymomorris)
The mobile site for California’s exchange was not allowing user access.
Updated: Oct. 01, 2013