While the controversy over the law in Washington has forced a federal government shutdown, New York’s health care exchanges took effect on Tuesday.

“We’re lowering health care costs and we’re improving access, but we’re also creating a marketplace where people can look at various options,” Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, D-Endwell.

But the rollout of the exchanges was a bumpy one. The state Department of Health reported more than 10 million visitors to its health exchange website, nystateofhealth, by late Tuesday afternoon. The site’s popularity created log in problems for visitors and the site was occassionally down throughout the day. Cuomo administration officials said the site’s traffic is a sign that people want to participate in the health exchange.

“What happened to the website was clearly one of volume which indicates why the governor is doing this and why we’re here — about two million hits on that website in that first two hours this morning, which shows you the enormous need for information,” said Lt. Gov. Bob Duffy.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo created the health exchange through an executive order in 2011. Broadly speaking, the exchanges create a marketplace for insurance customers to shop with the goal of lowering premiums due to the competition.

The state also has three call centers assisting New Yorkers who are interested in signing up.

“It’s confusing, it’s very confusing to people,” Duffy said. “There’s so much information that it sometimes overwhelming — what does it mean to have this. The navigators are put in to do just that to navigate the system.”

And despite Tuesday’s glitches, health department officials insisted the problems would be corrected.

“We know that with anything this new and of this scale it’s possible that we will have some bumps in the road, but our technical experts are standing by anything they observe that may need to be corrected,” Donna Frescatore, the executive director New York State Of Health said.
Later in the day her office released this statement:

“Today with the launch of New York State’s Health Insurance Exchange over nine thousand New Yorkers, including business owners and individuals, shopped online for low cost health insurance for the first time. Since its launch, nystateofhealth.ny.gov has gotten approximately 10 million web visits, far more than was anticipated, causing login problems for users. In response to these issues, operators at the state’s call center have assisted thousands of callers while our technicians have increased the site’s capacity and are looking into the cause of this abnormally high traffic.”

Cuomo himself has said the government shutdown in DC won’t impact the health exchange in New York.