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Md. Health Care Website Reporting Improvements

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) -- Maryland's online marketplace for health insurance is working better after technicians found the cause of a bottleneck that hampered efforts to create accounts online, the executive director of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange said Thursday, but visitors to the website were still running into delays.

Becca Pearce, the executive director, said that within a few hours after improvements were made to Maryland Health Connection, more than 1,000 users created new accounts.

"Today, users have continued to create accounts, determine eligibility, and compare and choose plans," Pearce said in a written statement. "We are closely monitoring the user experience, and are working to improve the efficiency and performance of the system."

Users ran into delays almost as soon as the website opened Tuesday morning. On Thursday the website still included a warning for users to expect wait-times.

State health officials have emphasized that there will be plenty of time for people to enroll in health care plans through the exchange, because plans do not take effect until January.

"We will address issues as they arise, and will continually improve the function of the website so that Marylanders can access quality, affordable health coverage," Pearce said.

Certain functions of the website will be unavailable from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily through the month of October in order for technicians to perform routine maintenance. Pearce said the website will remain open for general information. A call center for people to ask questions will not be affected.

"Consumer assistance organizations, local health departments and departments of social services are available throughout the state to provide assistance," Pearce said.

Maryland is running its own health insurance exchange. Other states that are running their own exchanges also have been experiencing problems with overloaded websites. So has the federal government, which is running an exchange for states that did not create their own.

Maryland officials have estimated that 150,000 people will enroll in qualified health plans during the first year. Another 100,000 uninsured residents are expected to be insured by expanding Medicaid.

Maryland now has an estimated 800,000 uninsured residents, about 14 percent of the state's 5.8 million residents. The state estimates about half of Maryland's uninsured will have insurance by 2020.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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