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252 enroll in RI's health insurance marketplace

Erika Niedowski, Associated Press

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- The new health insurance marketplace in Rhode Island that is part of the federal health care overhaul enrolled about 250 people on its opening day, officials said Wednesday.

Dara Chadwick, a spokeswoman for HealthSource RI, said the marketplace processed 252 applications on Tuesday, the first day of enrollment. Some people have already paid, and some have payments pending.

Director Christine Ferguson said on opening day there had been more interest than expected in the marketplace, which is sometimes called an exchange. High website traffic caused temporary access problems for some users. The site appeared to be operating smoothly on Wednesday.

The exchange's customer call center fielded nearly 2,200 calls on Tuesday, and 30 people visited the center. The website had 10,735 unique visits, and over 1,500 accounts were created, according to Chadwick.

It wasn't immediately clear whether the bulk of the people who have enrolled are those who previously did not have insurance or others, and whether small businesses had signed up.

Wednesday's enrollment figures will be made available on Thursday, Chadwick said.

Rhode Island is heavily courting the state's 30,000 small businesses, about half of which now offer health coverage.

Ferguson said Tuesday she expects peak enrollment in November and December for coverage beginning on Jan 1. Most Americans will be required to have health insurance under the Affordable Care Act or face fines. About 124,000 people are uninsured in Rhode Island, which has a population of just over 1 million.

Individuals with annual incomes less than about $46,000 and families of four with incomes less than about $94,000 will be eligible for federal tax credits. Some small businesses will also qualify for tax credits for the first two years.

Exchange officials say they expect anywhere from 70,000 to 100,000 people to get coverage through the exchange by the end of next year.