ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The operators at the MNsure health exchange fielded nearly 2,000 calls on opening day.
Most of the callers wanted to know when they could actually enroll in a health plan, which didn't happen until after 3:00 p.m. when the online marketplace went "live" for the first time.
"We really wanted to go up when we thought it was good to go up," April Todd-Malmlov, MNsure's executive director, told KARE.
"We wanted to make sure the services were working with the federal IT hub, and everything was working like a well-oiled machine."
Todd-Malmlov said thousands went to Mnsure.org to comparison shop for health plans, and in the first hour alone 500 people created personal accounts.
That's the first step to buying coverage, and finding how much of discount they can qualify for based on income.
Creating an account doesn't obligate a person to purchase a plan, but it gives them the most accurate apples-to-apples comparison with coverage available outside the exchange.
"What you're doing in creating an account is being able to get more detailed personalized information," Todd-Malmlov said, noting that the income data is necessary to see what type of premium assistance is available.
"And you'll come to the end of that account setup page where there are buttons where you verify whether you want to enroll or buy."
Critics took to Twitter and Facebook to express sticker shock at the prices available on MNsure, but Todd-Malmlov said rates on the plans offered on the exchange compare favorably with those on the open market.
President Obama acknowledged the launch of the federal exchange went rockier than many expected, in part due to high volume of traffic.
"More than one million people visited Healthcare.gov before seven in the morning," Obama said during a Rose Garden press event Tuesday.
The president compared those opening day hiccups with new iPhone operating system software glitches that made the news last month.
"Within days they found a glitch and so they fixed it. I don't remember anybody suggesting somebody should stop selling iPhones or iPads."
The enrollment window that opened Tuesday will remain open until March 31, and the plans purchased now will go into effect January 1.
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