LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Uninsured Kentuckians swarmed to the state's online health insurance marketplace Tuesday, but technical snafus temporarily delayed signing up people for coverage on the opening day of enrollment as the centerpiece of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul got off to a sputtering start.
Despite the glitches, state officials said they were pleased with the response from consumers. On Tuesday alone, nearly 78,000 people had browsed the website, more than 70,000 had made initial inquiries and nearly 3,000 signed up for coverage that begins Jan. 1, said Gwenda Bond, a spokeswoman for the state Health and Family Services Cabinet in Frankfort.
Also, nearly 6,000 calls were received from Kentuckians inquiring about the coverage, Bond said.
"The response has been swift and enormous," said Gov. Steve Beshear, an unabashed supporter of the federal health care overhaul.
The technical glitches halted the online application process for several hours until computer specialists fixed the problems, officials said.
The system was "thoroughly tested," Bond said, prior to Tuesday's initial startup of the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange — the online guide to a variety of insurance policies. The glitches that caused the disruptions could not be replicated during testing, Bond said.
Technical problems occurred in other states amid high demand on the first day of the six-month open-enrollment period.
From the nation's capital, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Affordable Care Act was "not ready for prime-time."
In a Senate speech on Tuesday, the Kentucky Republican said the health care overhaul is "killing jobs, driving up premiums and driving people out of the health care plans they already have and like."
Supporters of the law said the expanded coverage would improve lives among the large numbers who now go without health coverage.
Dominique Williams, a college student and part-time hair stylist, was among the uninsured who tried to apply for coverage at a community college in downtown Louisville. She left without having applied but set up an appointment to finish the process next week.
She said she expected some first-day glitches, and said the prospect of gaining health coverage would lift a burden off her.
"I don't mind paying part of it, not at all," she said. "If I could pay it all, I would. But right now I'm not in the position. And I don't want a free ride."
Williams, 39, has gone without health coverage since 2006. Since then, she's relied on prayer and home remedies to deal with ailments, she said. Williams went to the emergency room once for a broken toe, and it took her four years to pay off the bill, she said.
Laura Turkowski said she would be able to resume her allergy shots once her coverage kicks in.
Turkowski, 27, who is pursuing a doctorate in clinical psychology at Spalding University in Louisville, has gone without the injections for a year, since becoming too old to stay on her parents' health plan. She works part time but has been unable to afford her own coverage. She's had more breathing problems since she's been off the shots, she said.
"It'll just be a huge stress reliever for me knowing that I'll have coverage, and it's something that I can afford," she said.
Beshear said about 640,000 Kentuckians lack health insurance in a state that ranks at or near the top nationally for a series of health problems.
"Today marks a sea change in the health of Kentuckians," the governor said. "I've been looking forward to this day for a long time, and I'm excited for our friends, neighbors and co-workers to finally enjoy the peace of mind that comes from having affordable health insurance."
Premiums range from less than $50 a month for a healthy single person to more than $700 a month for a family of four. Annual deductibles range from $1,000 to $12,600.
Beshear has said four out of five Kentuckians will be eligible based on income cutoffs for federal subsidies ranging from less than $100 to more than $500 a month to help pay premiums.
Since Beshear created the exchange by executive order last year, Kentucky has received more than $250 million from the federal government to set it up.
Kentucky has promoted the new insurance offerings with an $11 million advertising campaign that began in June. Ads have been running on TV, on radio, on the Web and in newspapers. Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson said Tuesday the promotions will continue.
"We're going to blanket this in every way we can to be sure that folks get the information, take advantage of it, receive the coverage and ultimately sleep soundly at night," he said at an event in Louisville marking the start of enrollment.
Tea party activist David Adams, who has been sharply critical of Beshear's decision to push ahead with implementation of the health care law, raised concerns Tuesday about privacy issues as people apply for the coverage. He said the premiums are "outrageous," and that Beshear abused his authority in creating the exchange.
"You will see the service collapse under its own weight," Adams said.
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