SUNDAY, Dec. 1, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- The race to repair the
U.S. government's troubled health insurance website by Nov. 30 has
yielded a number of important fixes, but health officials on Sunday
acknowledged that more work is needed to improve consumers'
experience with the online marketplace.
"As we've said, with any web project there is not a magic moment but a process of continual improvement over time, and we will continue to work to make enhancements in the days, weeks and months ahead," said Julie Bataille, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency responsible for operating HealthCare.gov.
Still, federal health officials declared the site much improved,
ticking off a list of repairs and enhancements that have been made
to the site, even as late as last night.
"The bottom line: HealthCare.gov on December 1st is night and day from where it was on October 1st," Jeff Zients, an adviser to the Obama administration's top health officials, said in a rare Sunday news conference. He said that more than 400 "bugs" to the system have been fixed since work began in October, with the pace of fixes accelerating over time.
Zients, a management expert tapped to oversee the so-called
"tech surge" needed to repair the hobbled website, will leave in
January to become director of the National Economic Council.
As the gateway for millions of uninsured Americans in 36 states
to enroll in a health plan, HealthCare.gov plays a crucial role in
the ultimate success or failure of the Affordable Care Act,
President Barack Obama's crowning domestic policy achievement.
Following the website's calamitous launch on Oct. 1, the
administration conducted an assessment of the site to identify
problems and needed fixes.
For "some weeks" in October, the site was down an estimated 60
percent of the time, the government acknowledged in a progress
report issued Sunday.
A general contractor was appointed to coordinate the effort to
overhaul the site. And a team of information technology experts has
been working around the clock on a "punch list" of repairs, from
boosting system capacity and debugging the system to improving
users experience with the site.
The government says these efforts have resulted is significant
Even with these enhancements, there will be times "when spikes
in user volume outstrip the system's capacity," Zients said. A new
system will be deployed to allow consumers to request e-mail
notification of better times to use the site, he said.
The Obama administration has been under fire in recent weeks as
consumers seeking health insurance through the federal health
marketplace have encountered numerous snags. A raft of error
messages, timed-out web pages and slow response times gummed up the
process and, many times, the site was inoperable.
Under the Affordable Care Act, most Americans must have health
insurance in place by Jan. 1, 2014, or pay federal tax
Consumers seeking to purchase private health insurance through
the federal health exchange must do so by Dec. 23 if they want that
coverage to kick in on Jan. 1.
In the week leading up to the government's self-imposed Nov. 30
deadline for making the site work "smoothly" for the "vast
majority" of users, the Obama administration conceded that the
system would not operate perfectly on Dec. 1.
"It is likely as we move forward we'll experience additional glitches," Bataille said during a Nov. 25 news conference.
Even Sunday, one significant problem remained that the
government has yet to fully resolve. The government's website is
not always accurately transferring enrollment data to health
insurers. Failure to accurately transfer those so-called 834 forms
to insurers means a consumer who signs up for coverage may get lost
in the system.
"Until the enrollment process is working from end-to-end, many consumers will not be able to enroll in coverage," Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans, said in a statement issued Friday.
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation has tools and information
to help consumers understand the
Affordable Care Act.
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