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Health exchange back online after website upgrades
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SACRAMENTO  (AP) — Online enrollment for California's new health insurance exchange resumed Wednesday after technical glitches on the system's opening day forced overnight upgrades.

The enrollment portion of the exchange website was taken offline from 8:30 p.m. Tuesday until 10:45 a.m. Wednesday, Covered California spokesman Roy Kennedy said. He said some pages were loading slowly and logos for insurance plans were not displaying correctly.

Consumers were still able to browse insurance plan options while the enrollment pages were being fixed.

Interest from Californians appeared high after the exchange opened for business Tuesday. Approximately 7,700 Californians began applications for insurance coverage, Kennedy said.

The state's two call centers received 19,000 calls, and there were more than 5.7 million hits on the website by Tuesday afternoon. A third service center, in Fresno, is scheduled to open in November.

Kennedy said he was not able to comment Wednesday about whether that high volume was continuing on the exchange's second day. Exchange officials will provide figures for the first week of operation next Wednesday.

Some state insurers also reported high call volumes. Blue Shield of California fielded about 1,000 phone calls Tuesday almost exclusively about the exchanges, said Jeff Smith, vice president and general manager for individual and family plans.

He said that was probably double the normal call volume, with most calls coming from people trying to get educated about the law and their options.

"From all indications, we're really full steam ahead and really didn't see anything that I would call a show stopper," Smith said.

Smith said Blue Shield was waiting to hear from California's state exchange on how many people enrolled. Blue Shield is offering about five different plans on California's exchange.

Patrick Johnston, president and chief executive of the California Association of Health Plans, said the initial response was better than he expected.

"I think the pent-up demand for affordable health insurance is reflected in the volume of calls and hits to the website," he said.

As open enrollment continues, Johnston said it will be important that younger, healthier people are among those signing up for coverage to ensure a balance in the pool of enrollees. Those with serious medical conditions are expected to be among the first to seek coverage, but those people cost insurers more.

Under the nation's new health care law, people cannot be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition.

Covered California officials say they expect to release some early enrollment data in mid-November.

Johnston said his organization and insurers throughout the state are working on educating Californians so they understand the coverage options and are aware of the March 31 deadline for enrollment.

"This is a limited-time offer," he said. "If a person doesn't get coverage during open enrollment, that person is out of luck until 2015."