The White House said Sunday that it has “met its goal” of having Healthcare.gov “running smoothly for the vast majority of users by Nov 30,” two months after the problem-plagued website launched and spiraled into a technological and political nightmare for the Obama administration.
HealthCare.gov, the website for the federal exchange, which serves consumers in 36 states, is “night and day” to what it was on Oct 1., Jeff Zients, former White House budget director who has been tapped to oversee the repair efforts, told reporters on a press call Sunday.
Zients said the repair team has made more than 400 fixes to the website in the last two months, and has installed hardware and software upgrades to improve the system’s stability and increase its capacity.
“We have a much more stable system that’s reliably open for business,” Zients said.
It can now handle 50,000 users simultaneously - and about 800,000 unique visitors each day with the system remaining up 90 percent of the time, compared to 43 percent in October, according to a progress report released Sunday by the Obama administration. That’s a significant improvement from October, when the website crashed several times due to high traffic volumes, preventing consumers from being able to sign up for health coverage online.
But officials are still concerned about high traffic volumes and continue encouraging people to use alternative avenues to enroll, including using call centers or direct enrollment through insurers.
The report said the website’s error rate is at an average .75 percent, significantly lower than its 6 percent error rate in October. It also says the average response time is now less than 1 second; consumers had to wait an average of 8 seconds in October.
Still, officials say more work needs to be done “to improve and enhance the website and the consumer experience.” A number of glitches also continue to plague the website, including a function that allows users to retrieve their forgotten passwords.
CMS officials say consumers will see more improvements in a number of weeks.
Meanwhile, uninsured Americans have until Dec. 23, the new extended deadline to enroll in an insurance policy in order to have coverage by Jan 1. CMS officials say they are ramping up an “aggressive outreach” to get people enrolled before the end of the year, since problems with the website prevented people from enrolling. Just 106,000 people signed up for coverage through the exchanges in October, far below the 500,000 figure the administration had anticipated. Just 27,000 people enrolled on the federal exchange.
Outside organizations like Enroll America are also planning a big outreach push before the end of the year deadline. “We’re organizing a big last-minute push in December,” said Justin Nisly, national press secretary for Enroll America, a nonpartisan and privately funded organization that seeks to maximize the number of uninsured Americans who sign up for insurance under Obamacare. “We’ll have people on the ground in communities across the country. We'll be in beauty salons and farmers markets telling people how to get affordable coverage through the exchanges.”
Though the White House is touting the website’s fix a success, key portions of Healthcare.gov have been delayed and won’t be ready until next year, including the SHOP tool that allows small businesses to apply for coverage online, which won’t be ready to use until next November. Similarly, the website’s Spanish-language tool was also pushed back by another month, since the repair team prioritized fixing the individual marketplace function of the website.
Follow Brianna Ehley on Twitter @BriannaEhley
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