SEATTLE -- The website for Washington state's new health exchange got off to a rough start on Tuesday. It was off line for nearly six hours after officials shut it down to assess why it was operating so slowly.
The wahealthplanfinder.org website went back online just after 2 p.m.
Michael Marchand, a spokesman for the new health insurance marketplace, said the problem was not related to the volume of visitors or to the federal government shutdown.
Marchand compared the experience to any new software launch and said glitches come with the territory.
The state's answer to President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act was supposed to launch at 7:30 a.m. online as well as be available via the telephone and in person at locations around the state.
But many users had trouble getting the website to load for most of the morning and early afternoon. In response to the website issues, Washington Healthplanfinder released this statement:
"This morning, we determined that consumers attempting to enroll in health coverage through Washington Healthplanfinder experienced slow loading times or difficulty completing their application. While this is not affecting all users, the site was placed into maintenance mode in order to identify and correct these issues.
"Our team has made a few modifications to the site and are currently in the process of bringing Washington Healthplanfinder back online. We will continue to closely monitor the website for any performance issues and will take additional action as needed.
"Again, the experience of our customers is our top priority and we thank you for your patience as we work to bring the site back up to Washingtonians statewide."
Washington residents have six months to buy health insurance through the new exchange during the first enrollment period, which ends in March.
The state estimates about a million Washington residents do not have health insurance, or about one in seven people.
The state hopes to enroll 130,000 people for health insurance in 2014 and another 280,000 in 2015.
Another 325,000 people will be eligible to sign up for free insurance through Medicaid.