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Traffic on Vt. health site heavy despite glitches

Dave Gram, Associated Press

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) -- Traffic on the new Vermont Health Connect insurance exchange was heavy Wednesday, the second day of operation, even as system problems persisted with a slow-to-respond website, officials said.

Commissioner Mark Larson of the Department of Vermont Health Access, the state's point person for the launch of the new exchange, said staff remained focused on improving the website speed.

"We're making progress and analyzing the reason that the performance of the website is not what we want it to be," Larson said.

Later in the day, Vermont Health Connect spokeswoman Emily Yahr said in an email: "We have improved the load time for the front pages of the website, and we continue working to improve overall site performance."

Yahr said the website had 20,300 different visitors and 1,230 people had created an account through which they can shop for insurance.

Enrollment in the health exchange began Tuesday in Vermont and around the country under President Barack Obama's signature health care overhaul.

Morgan Brown of Montpelier, an activist on human services issues, pointed to another flaw in the new system: a link for people looking to enroll by Jan. 1 that brought the viewer back to a blank Google search page. Told of the problem, Yahr said it would be fixed, and two hours later, the link worked.

Brown also said he was confused by different instructions for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. The 58-year-old is "dual-eligible" for both programs because he is disabled, he said. The instruction for Medicaid talked about signing up for the program, while Medicare recipients were told they don't have to do anything for federal benefits to be covered.

Vermont has about 22,000 dual-eligible residents, said Julie Wasserman, manager of the dual-eligible program for the Agency of Human Services.

Yahr said people in Brown's category would not see any significant changes from the way they get insurance now. They already have to go through a yearly process to show their continuing eligibility for Medicaid, she said.