The Obama administration declared on Sunday that the troubled HealthCare.gov website is now functioning smoothly for most users, but problems persist even two months after its initial launch.
Since the HealthCare.gov’s disastrous unveiling on October 1, President Barack Obama and his health care team have scrambled to stabilize the $630 million website for a relaunch on December 1. According to the White House, the website can now handle 50,000 simultaneous users, as well as 800,000 daily visitors.
As ABC News noted, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) stated in a new report that unscheduled outages continue to crash the website around five percent of the time, and heavy traffic could still slow operations down significantly. On Saturday, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius suggested that people still visit the site at off-peak hours – mornings, evenings, and the weekend – to avoid traffic-related problems as much as possible.
Notably, HealthCare.gov crashed as CNN reporters tested it on television. Though reporters noted that logging in, choosing your state, and entering your information worked “a lot more smoothly” than before, the site still delivered error messages as it tried to process all the data and failed to progress to the next step. According to the New York Times, there are still problems with much of the website “back end” that calculates personal information and enrollment data – such as exactly what kind of subsidies an individual qualifies for – and files transactions with insurance companies.
Still, the White House considers the current state of HealthCare.gov much more stable. In its report, HHS stated the website was down 60 percent of the time in October, whereas it is now online 90 percent of the time.
"HealthCare.Gov on Dec. 1 is night and day from where it was on Oc. 1," said Jeffrey Zients, the former Obama administration official now managing the repair effort, according to the Washington Post. "While we still have work to do, we've made significant progress with HealthCare.gov working for the vast majority of consumers."
The administration also said that 90 percent of users can now create an account, though at least one technology expert told Yahoo News the statistic could be misleading, since only those implementing website fixes will know the true numbers.
"It prevents anyone from the outside from contradicting them," said Jonathan Wu, the co-founder of the financial website ValuePenguin.
As the Times noted, the number of items that needed repair on HealthCare.gov ballooned to more than 600, and some administration officials even considered ditching the entire operation and starting over. Ultimately, it was decided the website could be salvaged, and during a conference call Zients told reporters that about 400 items on the list have been fixed.
Although March 31 remains the cut-off date for enrollment into the Affordable Care Act – failure to enroll by that point will result in fines – those looking to have insurance plans kick in on January 1 must be enrolled by December 23. If problems with the website continue to plague users, however, some Congressional Democrats have voiced support for extending the final enrollment deadline past March.
According to a report by Bloomberg news, about 100,000 Americans signed up for health insurance plans through the federal exchange in November, an increase over the 26,794 people who enrolled in October. Originally, administration officials expected around 800,000 enrollments during the first two months the marketplaces