In the final day leading up to Obamacare’s sign-up deadline, the website was once again hit with technical glitches that prevented people from signing up for health insurance.
The problems stemmed from a function on the site that verifies people’s income to determine if they qualify for federal subsidies, and if so, how much. Officials from the Department of Health and Human Services confirmed the issues on Saturday, saying some people weren’t able to submit their applications because the website couldn’t verify their income.
On Saturday afternoon, health officials instructed people to continue creating accounts on HealthCare.gov, browse their options for coverage, and then save their progress so they could return later when the issues had been resolved.
The glitches were fixed around 8 p.m., according to HHS officials, who said they would be contacting consumers who had issues to tell them they can continue completing their applications. It’s unclear if the deadline to sign up will be extended.
HealthCare.gov is the main website for consumers living in the 37 states that rely on the federal exchange. The website had been relatively glitch free this year, compared to Obamacare’s rollout last year, when the site was so plagued with problems that only six people were able to sign up for coverage on the first day. To date, the administration has spent a total $2.2 billion to build and repair the website.
Even though the site is complicated, the user base is relatively small. By comparison, Facebook has 1.9 billion users and experts say Facebook could have been built easily for $1 million in 9 months – not the nearly 3 years it took to launch the first version of Healthcare.gov.
HHS officials didn’t go into detail about what caused the verification problem. But some are concerned that it could lead to more issues down the road.
The administration ran into verification problems last summer, when it couldn’t verify legal citizenship status for more than 300,000 applicants. Under the law, Obamacare enrollees must be able to prove they are legally residing in the United States.
However, if they can’t confirm their status, they aren’t eligible for coverage or subsidies on the exchanges. In September, more than 100,000 people were kicked off their plans legal status issues. Last week, another 200,000 were told they would be dropped from coverage for failing to verify that they are legally living in the United States. The issues with verification could cause similar problems down the road.
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