Affordable Care Act enrollment stymied by exchange glitches

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Many consumers looking to sign up for Obamacare health coverage weren’t making it very far Tuesday morning.

Enrollment in the Obamacare exchanges has begun, with the federal and most state exchange sites unveiling their “Get Started” buttons. But widespread technical glitches plagued the exchanges.

CLICK HERE to apply for a healthcare exchange

Some New Yorkers, for instance, received an “internal server error” when they tried to sign up. In the first 90 minutes of the launch, there were two million visits to the site, a state Health Department spokesman said. Technicians are working to reconfigure the system to address slow wait times or error messages, while the state call center is helping people enroll over the phone.

“With a website providing so much data to so many people, we are working through these growing pains and are confident users will have better access to the site shortly,” the spokesman said.

The sign-up site was still down in the early afternoon.

Maryland residents were directed to a consumer information update that said both its website and call center were experiencing “connectivity problems.” In the early afternoon, residents were still have trouble getting on the site.

And those going to the federal exchange site, which is handling enrollment for 36 states that didn’t fully establish their own exchanges are greeted with this message:

“Health Insurance Marketplace: Please wait. We have a lot of visitors on our site right now and we’re working to make your experience here better. Please wait here until we send you to the login page. Thanks for your patience!”

Federal officials said the site is experiencing higher-than-expected volume and problems are being addressed. There were five times more users on the Marketplace website this morning than have ever been on at one time, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Wait times were getting shorter as the day progressed, officials said.

“We’ll be speeding things up in the next few hours to handle all this demand,” President Obama said Tuesday afternoon.

CNNMoney readers from New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and California reported problems signing in or completing the application in the morning. One Twitter user from Pennsylvania said that he was first told he couldn’t sign up using an iPad. Then he was told to come back later and then was told he had given duplicate answers to questions.

“TRY AGAIN,” he tweeted.

Terry O’Neal, a writer and Ph.D. student in California, resorted to dialing her state’s call center Tuesday morning after being unable to sign up online. After she waited on hold for an hour, a representative took down her information and filled out a paper application. O’Neal used the site’s Shop and Compare link to decide on a Kaiser Permanente plan.

California’s site Tuesday morning said in English and Spanish: “Due to the success of the Covered California Marketplace we are experiencing higher than expected users. To make sure everyone has a great experience while on the site, we need you to come back in a little bit. We’re sorry for the inconvenience and we look forward to your return in a few hours.”

At the Community Financial Center at the Highland Mall in north Austin, Texas, volunteers cannot access the federal exchange portal to help consumers sign up for coverage.

Some states said previously that they wouldn’t be ready to accept applications. The District of Columbia, Oregon and Colorado all announced that they would not be able to fully enroll all residents online in the initial weeks of enrollment.

Consumers have six months to enroll in Obamacare, though they need to sign up by Dec. 15 if they want coverage to begin on Jan. 1.

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