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Technical issues have hobbled the launch of California's online health insurance portal, created as part of the federal health care overhaul.

While a dispute over the new law sent the federal government careening into a shutdown, states have stuck to an Oct. 1 open enrollment date for the new health insurance exchanges that constitute one of the law's central features. California marked the occasion with fanfare, holding official events around the state.

But a Tuesday morning visit to the online marketplace where consumers can shop for insurance plans and compare price and benefits, suggested that the roll out has slowed.

A click on the "start here" button leads to a page that takes several minutes to load. When the page does load, its formatting appears to be faulty, and clicking through to the next step brings additional delays. When The Bee called the customer support line, a recording advised that the wait for service would be longer than 30 minutes.

A non-scientific search of the hashtag "#CoveredCA" on Twitter revealed users encountering similar problems, with a steady stream of messages testifying to long lags.

"We're thinking there may be some individual browser problems but obviously the high traffic can slow it down," said Anne Gonzales, a spokeswoman for Covered California, pointing to a "very high volume" of people logging on. "We're making fixes as we go along, so it should be better later in the day, but it's up and running."

PHOTO: Executive Director of Covered California Peter V. Lee speaks to members of the press during the launch of Covered California in Rancho Cordova on Tuesday, October 1, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton.


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