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BOISE -- As of 8 a.m. MDTthe nation's new online health insurance exchange was overloaded, with many users seeing an error message. The problem cleared up about an hour later.

Idaho's insurance exchange hit opening-day snags too, with online applications being processed more slowly than anticipated, with high volume.

Alberto Gonzalez is the Operations Manager for Your Health Idaho, the state-governed corporation that runs Idaho's new health exchange.

Gonzalez said the rollout of the state's exchange program was temporarily slowed on Tuesday due to the massive response from prospective buyers.

Most of the people that are calling want to know 'how do I get started? Gonzalez told KTVB. Is it OK for me to online to do this today? What will I need? Is there someone in my community I can talk to.' That's been the bulk of the calls.

HOWBUSYWASTHE EXCHANGE?

Idaho's health exchange website was overloaded Tuesday morning, and data provided by Gallatin Public Affairs shows more than 8,000 unique users visited the site on Tuesday

The ten employees who answer the phones at the Your Health Idaho Consumer Resource Center were also busy. They had answered 422 phone calls by 4 p.m.

Have a question about Idaho's health care exchange?You can get help at 1-855-YHIDAHO.

In case you were wondering, the folks who answer the phone here won't sign you up for health insurance or get you a rate. Instead, they work to help you sign up online, or get you in touch with those who can -- known as consumer connectors.

WHAT'SNEXT?

While open enrollment began Tuesday at midnight, coverage can begin January first, and the enrollment period closes on March.

KEY DATES

  • October 1, 2013: Marketplace open enrollment started
  • January 1, 2014: Health coverage can start
  • March 31, 2014: Open enrollment ends

Importantly, there's also a separate marketplace for small business owners. That program is called the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP).

What if you don't have insurance, and don't want to take part in the exchange?

You'll have to pay a fee.

The fee in 2014 is 1 percent of your yearly income or $95 per person for the year, whichever is higher. The fee increases every year. In 2016 it is 2.5 percent of income or $695 per person, whichever is higher.

Insurance exchanges are a key part of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul and are meant to connect individuals and small businesses with federally subsidized insurance, depending on their income.

Exchanges across the country opened Tuesday.

Check out our Health Reform page for more information, stories, resources, and to watch our half-hour special on the topic.

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