DENVER - Colorado opened its health exchange marketplace Tuesday after more than two years of planning - but the exchange website temporarily was overwhelmed by tens of thousands of visitors, briefly preventing consumers from creating new accounts.
Connect For Health Colorado, and all state exchanges, opened for business Tuesday morning. It was the big rollout for the federal health care law.
Customers who need health insurance will be able to use the site to find out what their choices are, what their premiums will be and whether they qualify for subsidies to reduce their payments.
But the Connect for Health website ran a banner at midday advising consumers that new accounts couldn't be opened because of a high volume of visitors - more than 34,500, according to spokesman Ben Davis. The problem was resolved shortly thereafter.
Colorado consumers created more than 1,300 accounts, Davis said.
Colorado had 180 people working a call center in Colorado Springs to help customers through the process. Coverage doesn't start until January, and people without health insurance have until the end of the year to sign up.
Exchange officials in every state were braced for glitches, though.
Already, Colorado's exchange has said that the website won't be fully functional for the first month. Customers will have to call for help applying for government subsidies, instead of completing the whole transaction online.
And there were rumors of emails asking health law critics to jam call centers with bogus calls to gum up the rollout. Reporters weren't invited to Colorado's call center Tuesday, though a spokesman for the exchange was updating reporters throughout the day.
Connect for Health Colorado CEO Patty Fontneau planned a Tuesday afternoon update.
Colorado officials insisted the state wouldn't be affected by any potential federal shutdown prompted by a congressional stalemate over the health law. Colorado is one of 17 states that opted to create its own exchange, rather than rely on the federal government to run it.
President Barack Obama said Monday that a shutdown wouldn't affect implementation of the health law in any state. Most of the law's funding does not come from annual appropriations.
"That funding is already in place. You can't shut it down," Obama said.