A photo of the homepage for the site HealthCare.gov, the country's new health care website.
Hide Caption

Officials: Worst tech bugs over for Healthcare.gov

a a a a
Share this story

WASHINGTON (AP) - The worst of the online glitches, crashes and delays may be over for the problem-plagued government health care website, the Department of Health and Human Services said Sunday.

But that doesn't mean HealthCare.gov is ready for a clean bill of health.

Officials acknowledged more work remains on the website that included hundreds of software bugs, inadequate equipment and inefficient management for its national debut two months ago. Federal workers and private contractors have undertaken an intense reworking of the system, but the White House's chief troubleshooter cautioned some users could still encounter trouble.

"The bottom line -- HealthCare.gov on December 1st is night and day from where it was on October 1st," Jeff Zients told reporters.

More than 50,000 people can log on to the website at one time and more than 800,000 people will be able to shop for insurance coverage each day, the government estimated in a report released Sunday. If true, it's a dramatic improvement from the system's first weeks, when frustrated buyers watched their computer screen freeze, the website crash and error messages multiply.

The figures -- which could not be independently verified -- suggest millions of Americans could turn to their laptops to shop for and buy insurance policies by the Dec. 23 deadline to sign up for coverage. It could also offer a fresh start for President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats after a wave of bad publicity surrounding the president's chief domestic achievement.

"This website is technology. It's going to get better. It's already better today," said Rep. Keith Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat who is a co-chairman of the liberal Congressional Progressive Caucus. "And we're only going to be working out more kinks as we go forward."

Amid all the problems with HealthCare.gov, Obama set a deadline for Saturday for several significant problems to be resolved. The administration organized a conference call with reporters Sunday morning to give a status report and boast that 400 technical problems had been resolved but declined to say how many items remain on the to-do list.

Even with the repairs in place, the site still won't be able to do everything the administration wants, and companion sites for small businesses and Spanish speakers have been delayed. Questions remain about the stability of the site and the quality of the data it delivers to insurers.

"The security of this site and the private information does not meet even the minimal standards of the private sector, and that concerns me," said Rep. Mike Rogers, the Michigan Republican who leads the House intelligence panel. "I don't care if you're for it or against it, Republican or Democrat, we should not tolerate the sheer level of incompetence securing this site."

Obama promised a few weeks ago that HealthCare.gov "will work much better on Nov. 30, Dec. 1, than it worked certainly on Oct. 1." But, in trying to lower expectations, he said he could not guarantee that "100 percent of the people 100 percent of the time going on this website will have a perfectly seamless, smooth experience."

Obama rightly predicted errors would remain. The department reported the website was up and running 95 percent of the time last week -- meaning a 1-in-20 chance remains of encountering a broken website. The government also estimated that pages crashed at a rate less than once every 100 clicks.

"Yes, there are problems," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee. "There's no denying that. Let's work to fix them."

The nation's largest health insurer trade group said significant problems remain and could be a barrier for consumers signing up for coverage effective Jan. 1.

"HealthCare.gov and the overall enrollment process continue to improve, but there are significant issues that still need to be addressed," said Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans.

Republicans, betting frustration about the health care law is their best bet to make gains in 2014's congressional and gubernatorial elections, continued their criticism of the system.

"I don't know how you fix it, I'll be honest," said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn. "I don't know how you fix a program that was put together in this manner with only one side of the aisle, and taking the shortcuts we're taking to put it in place."

Democrats, sensing their potential vulnerability, sought to blame Republicans for not offering ideas on how to improve the website.

"Yes, we have to fix it. We should be working together to fix it," said Van Hollen, a former chairman of the committee tasked to elect more Democrats to the U.S. House.

The first big test of the repaired website probably won't come for a few more weeks, when an enrollment surge is expected as consumers rush to meet a Dec. 23 deadline so their coverage can kick in on the first of the year.

Avoiding a break in coverage is particularly important for millions of people whose current
individual policies

were canceled because they don't meet the standards of the health care law, as well as for a group of about 100,000 in an expiring federal program for high-risk patients.

Ellison spoke to ABC's "This Week." Rogers and Van Hollen were interviewed on NBC's "Meet the Press." Corker joined CBS' "Face the Nation."

Previous
1 2
Next

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Print this article

Comments

Hmm... It looks like you’re not a WCPO Insider. or Subscribe now to contribute!

More National News
Teen survives in wheel well during Maui flight
Teen survives in wheel well during Maui flight

A 16-year-old boy stowed away in the wheel well of a flight from California to Hawaii on Sunday, surviving the trip halfway across the…

CO town mourns on 15th anniversary of Columbine
CO town mourns on 15th anniversary of Columbine

April 20 marks 15 years since the mass shooting that killed 12 students and teacher Dave Sanders at Columbine High School in Littleton.

Boston race opens spots to some affected by bomb
Boston race opens spots to some affected by bomb

In November, Boston Marathon organizers announced that about 500 bibs would be available for those "personally and profoundly impacted…

Focus on festivities, security ahead of marathon
Focus on festivities, security ahead of marathon

Families celebrated Easter, diners enjoyed the spring weather at sidewalk cafes, and runners - easily identified by their trim builds and…

Fighter, advocate 'Hurricane' Carter dies at 76
Fighter, advocate 'Hurricane' Carter dies at 76

Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, a one-time middleweight title contender whose murder convictions became an international symbol of racial…

Pot holiday '4/20' looks to go mainstream in CO
Pot holiday '4/20' looks to go mainstream in CO

Tens of thousands of revelers raised joints, pipes and vaporizer devices to the sky Sunday at a central Denver park in a defiant toast to the…

PD: Man pelts GF with eggs at Easter party
PD: Man pelts GF with eggs at Easter party

Pittsburgh police say a man threw hardboiled eggs at his girlfriend during an Easter egg decorating party, then tried to attack police.

Boston Strong for a cause: Team MR8 ready to run
Boston Strong for a cause: Team MR8 ready to run

The Boston Marathon has meant more to Fran Fidler than he can put into words.

Mike Canan: Boston Marathon more than a race
Mike Canan: Boston Marathon more than a race

The 2014 Boston Marathon wasn't in runner Mike Canan's plans, after completing the 2013 race two hours before the bombing. But…

Boston kid wants to win Boston Marathon for city
Boston kid wants to win Boston Marathon for city

Shalane Flanagan grew up in nearby Marblehead with a reverence for the Boston Marathon and dreamed, like many locals and foreign…