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    Trying to Get Obamacare Is Like Trying to Get the New iPhone Right Now

    Written by

    Daniel Stuckey


    Image via Flickr

    If you're keen on signing up for Obamacare, you might want to wait a bit. That's because healthcare.gov, the new online health insurance marketplace that debuted today is overrun with web traffic. So are many of the individual state websites that it directs visitors to.

    According to Alexa's latest numbers, healthcare.gov is the 7,818th most visited site on the Internet, which is pretty good. That's just a few places behind Stephen Colbert's site (7,809), and couponcabin.com (7,815).

    "We are thrilled that over 1 million people visited HealthCare.gov in the last day," a spokesperson for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Sercives told me in an email. "There were five times more users on the Marketplace website this morning than have ever been on the Medicare.gov at one time."

    Update 4:00PM — 2.8 million have now visited the site since midnight, 81,000 phone calls to call centers, and 61,000 live chat requests have been placed. On a CMS press conference call, a spokeswoman indicated, "This is a historic moment, this has never been done before. We have seen more simultaneous users on our website than we ever have before." While some states have released early enrollment numbers, the CMS hasn't released any national figures yet, claiming that they intend to, but at the moment cannot accurately pull that type of data. The spokeswoman reminded that until December 15th, users will be able to enroll in coverage that begins in January.

    As I've felt the lingering insecurity of not being covered for the past seven years, it decided I might as well see what an Obamacare premium would cost me. So, I successfully made it through the first few steps to sign up on the New York website. I signed up for an electronic ID, I received a confirmation e-mail, clicked the activation link, I setup my password—but after that, I hit a wall of Internal Server Errors.

    "Oh yeah," I thought, "this is probably like trying to buy an iPhone 5S." 

    "We have built a dynamic system and expect to speed up the system in the coming hours," the spokesperson said. "Consumers who need help can also contact the call center, use the live chat function, or go to localhelp.healthcare.gov to find an in-person assistor in their community.”

    Amidst a coinciding partial government shutdown prompted by a Republican tizzy to defund the program itself, online Obamacare feels a bit like a getaway car, sputtering and humming, and just barely hanging on. 

    President Obama delivered a speech this afternoon regarding the shutdown, which he says resulted from an "idealogical crusade" against the Affordable Care Act. He then likened the overwhelmed web-based portal errors to the early lockscreen glitch in Apple's recent iOS7 launch. The president pointed out that Apple was able to fix its glitch in a matter of days, reasoning the government would be able to do the same.

    But as the sites to signup are overwhelmed by early adopters, questions linger: After the surge of Internet traffic subsides, how many people will actually sign up for affordable care before the end of the year? Will early government customer service satisfy citizens? How well will the online system work, even with all the glitches ironed out? And which will I get first: The new iPhone, or Obamacare?