LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- Kentucky is putting its best face on the Day 1 crash of its health exchange website, saying it simply couldn't handle the pent up demand of people who want access to health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, which took effect across the country on Tuesday.
After malfunctioning for most of the day, the kynect.ky.gov website had been repaired as of 3pm, according to state officials.
"We thank Kentuckians for bearing with us during these technical glitches today," said Gwenda Bond, the Assistant Communications Director with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
“The response has been swift and enormous,” added Governor Steve Beshear in a news release. “The fact that nearly 60,000 unique visitors have clicked on kynect.ky.gov in its first day tells us that not only are Kentuckians ready for real, affordable health care, they don’t want to wait another minute to find it.”
Dozens of people who showed up at an open enrollment event at Jefferson Community and Technical College were met with error messages on computers and rain checks from "Connectors," insurance experts hired to help consumers understand their choices.
"(We) help them sift through the different options and the eligibility that they might be actually qualified for a couple of different things," explained Samantha Davis, a Kynect "Connector."
"I don't have any health insurance and I need it," said Sharon Miller of Louisville as she waited to meet with a connector. "I need to see into it."
Miller estimated she pays about $100 out of pocket each month on medical expenses.
"It's kind of hard," added Dineen Christian. "You can't see the doctors you want to see. You can't get treated for stuff going on with you."
The Kynect kickoff coincided with the federal government shutdown as Senate Democrats refused to agree to a House Republican bill which would have delayed implementation of parts of the ACA.
Carrie Banahan, the Kentucky Health Benefits Exchange Director, said the shutdown does not affect Kentucky's health care rollout.
"We are fully funded and the government shutdown does not impact the funding for the exchange since it’s mandatory funding," Banahan said. "We’re taking applications and it’s no impact to us."
"If they come back in four days and cave, they have given us more reason to get rid of them," said David Adams, the tea party activist whose lawsuit against Kentucky's health care expansion is being appealed to the Kentucky Supreme Court.
"I think the fact that we are having this fight and forcing them to have a backbone is ultimately a good thing," Adams said.
Adams pounced on the first day hiccup as a call to action, for Americans to scrutinize the promises of the health care law.
"You'd be insane to sign up today," Adams said.
"I think if this thing doesn't blow up now, but eight, nine, ten weeks from now if it's still in existence, it blows up then," Adams said, arguing that Kentucky's health care exchange is a raw deal for consumers.
"When you look at the premiums and you add in the deductables, the co-payments, the out of pocket expenses, it's far more expensive coverage through the exchange than you can get right now today on e-health insurance.com," Adams said.
ACA proponents, meanwhile, celerated its commencement in a lecture hall at Jefferson Community and Technical College.
"Check it out. It doesn't cost to get online," said Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson (D-Kentucky). "It doesn't cost to make the phone call. It doesn't cost to order the paper application."
"Tell your friends," Abramson continued. "Send out the word. We will be all over you. We're going to blanket this in every way we can."
"We have a huge debate in this country whether health care is a priveledge or a right," said LaQuandra Nesbitt, Louisville Metro Health Director. "And I think what happens on a day like today helps us to better recognize that it is absolutely a right of all of our citizens in this country to have access to high quality, affordable health care."