Oregonians trying to sign up for Obamacare online via Cover Oregon on Tuesday discovered they could look but not buy.
Rocky King, Cover Oregon's executive director, explained in a news conference Tuesday that plans cannot be purchased from Cover Oregon for at least a week, when flaws in the Web portal that determines individuals' eligibility are fixed.
While anyone can go onto the marketplace and attempt to browse plans, only so-called "community partners" - insurance agents or those authorized to assist people in purchasing from the exchange - can establish accounts and pre-order health insurance.
King said that's so those well-versed in health care eligibility can point out what does and does not work before the system opens up to individuals in a few weeks.
The glitches are a "technology challenge" affecting the portal that connects insurers, agents and the state and federal governments, King said. While he maintained that those problems are not affecting the public access website that thousands of Oregonains are using, members of the public reported issues with the site throughout the morning Tuesday.
King emphasized that he regrets the delay, and is working to make sure those who need coverage receive it.
"Do I shed tears? I do, because when you get a call from somebody that needs coverage, and you've got to say 'You've got to wait another week," he said. "That hurts."
The glitches seen in Cover Oregon coincided with a flurry of such rocky launches across the country as a pivotal component of the Affordable Care Act was rolled out to the public.
Cover Oregon is designed to allow individuals to enter their personal information into the Cover Oregon web portal, which then determines their eligibility for tax credits or forms of insurance such as Medicaid, a coordinated care organization plan, or Healthy Kids.
"We want to make sure that those whom we say 'They're eligible for Medicaid,' they are," King said. "It's about figuring out the right pathway for which to choose a plan."
Cover Oregon leaders convened in Durham near Portland on Tuesday for what they dubbed a launch celebration. At the conference, they assured reporters they were working out the flaws in the system and painted today's launch as merely a starting point.
The law begins delivering insurance coverage, both through private plans bought on the marketplaces and through Medicaid, on Jan. 1 to those who enroll by Dec. 1. Those who purchase insurance between Jan. 1 and March 31 will receive coverage starting on May 1, Amy Fauver, Cover Oregon's chief communications officer, explained at the news conference.