State health insurance website visited by millions on second day

NuHealth President and Chief Executive Officer Arthur Gianelli NuHealth President and Chief Executive Officer Arthur Gianelli talking to the media at a press conference to start a campaign to help uninsured people in getting health insurance at Nassua University Medical Center in East Meadow. (Oct. 2, 2013) Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

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Millions of people tried to log on to New York's new health insurance website Wednesday, slowing it down for its second day of operations.

The state Health Department said that since the website opened Tuesday, there have been close to 30 million Web visits and that New York "has experienced the highest level of activity of any state."

"Like all other states, New York's website is experiencing significant levels of activity, which is causing some users to experience difficulty entering the site and delays in application processing," Donna Frescatore, executive director of NY State of Health, said in a statement. "Our technicians have doubled the site's capacity and are working around the clock to troubleshoot emerging problems."

NY State of Health is the state's online insurance marketplace for individuals, families and businesses with 50 or fewer employees, as part of the federal Affordable Care Act. State exchanges and a federal site allow consumers to choose from private insurance plans for coverage that begins Jan. 1. Consumers must enroll by Dec. 15.

New York's continued slowdown was mirrored around the country. While the federal website serving 36 states was working faster Wednesday than it had on Tuesday, some people were still unable to create accounts or enroll online.

State health officials said that more than 12,000 business owners and individuals have shopped at nystateofhealth.ny.gov. The state's customer service operators have answered questions from more than 9,000 New Yorkers, Frescatore said.

More than 100 people Wednesday called the Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council, designated by the state as a lead navigator agency on Long Island, said Stacy Villagran, director of grants administration for the council.

"A lot of people are looking for a lot of answers," she said. "We're doing the best we can."

Barbara Rudish, 62, of Holbrook, was one of those seeking help.

She said she pays $817 a month for health insurance, which will expire in December. That premium comes out of her monthly $901 Social Security check, she said. Her husband is retired and their only other income is his Social Security check and a small pension.

She said she's been trying to get on the state website since Tuesday and called the Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council, but got voice mail.

"Right now I'm in a kind of limbo," she said.

Arthur Gianelli, chief executive of NuHealth, which includes Nassau University Medical Center, announced a campaign Wednesday to help an additional 4,000 people sign up for health insurance through NY State of Health.

Gianelli said certified application counselors from the insurer Healthfirst will be on hand at NUMC or family health centers to talk with people identified as needing health insurance. Healthfirst is one of nine insurers in Nassau offering health insurance on the exchange. NuHealth is part owner of Healthfirst, which offers insurance for low-income people on Medicaid or Medicare. NUMC is also a clinical affiliate of North Shore-LIJ Health System, which has started its own insurance company, North Shore-LIJ CareConnect.

With wire service reports

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