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

White House: On track for HealthCare.gov site goal

a a a a
Share this story

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration says it will meet its self-imposed deadline of fixing the troubled health care website so that 50,000 people can log in at the same time starting late Saturday. Yet questions remain about the stability of the site, the volume of traffic it can handle and the quality of the data it is delivering to insurers.

Round-the-clock repair work since HealthCare.gov went live on Oct. 1 has produced fewer errors, and pages are loading faster.

But the site still won't be able to do everything the administration wanted, and companion sites for small businesses and Spanish speakers have been delayed.

Still, the White House hopes a website that is at least operating more smoothly after weeks of bad publicity about its troubles will mark a fresh start for Obama and the signature domestic initiative of his presidency, as well as give him a chance to salvage a second term that has been weighed down by health care law's rough start and other issues.

Administration officials said HealthCare.gov was working well Saturday, the deadline set to have it working smoothly for the "vast majority of users," after overnight hardware upgrades to boost its capacity. Software fixes to further improve speed and reduce errors were planned for overnight Saturday during the long holiday weekend, presumably a time when traffic to the health care website would be low.

Additional data on the website's progress was to be released Sunday by Jeff Zients, the website's chief troubleshooter.

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."

The nation's largest health insurer trade group said significant problems remain.

Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans, said insurers have complained that enrollment data sent to them from the website include too much incorrect, duplicative, garbled or missing information. She said the problems must be cleared up to guarantee consumers the coverage they signed up for effective Jan. 1.

"Until the enrollment process is working from end to end, many consumers will not be able to enroll in coverage," Ignani said.

The first big test of the repaired website probably won't come for another couple of 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.

The law requires most people who don't have health insurance to buy coverage or pay fines.

If HealthCare.gov seizes up again at crunch time, the White House may have to yield to congressional demands for extensions or delays in key requirements of the law, such as the individual requirement to get covered. Delaying the individual mandate, in turn, could lead to higher future premiums, since healthy people would no longer have an incentive to sign up.

For the system to be successful, the administration needs large numbers of mostly younger, healthy people to buy coverage to help offset the cost of insuring older people who generally use more health care services. Federal subsidies are available to those who qualify to help lower the cost of insurance.

As a result of the website troubles, HealthCare.gov, which services 36 states, signed up just 27,000 people in October, while the 14 states that run their own websites enrolled 79,000. The total of roughly 106,000 was far off the administration's estimate that nearly 500,000 people would enroll within the first month of the six-month enrollment period.

When the website went live on Oct. 1, it locked up right away. Consumers could not get past a balky page that required them to create accounts before moving on to the next step. The system also did not allow window shopping, which experts said was a departure from standard e-commerce practices and contributed to overloading.

Conflicting explanations were given for the decision, and contractors working on the site told lawmakers there wasn't enough time for testing before the system went live.

The White House initially put a positive spin on the problems, saying the system was overwhelmed by unexpectedly strong interest from millions of consumers. But after Obama tapped Zients, a management consultant, to troubleshoot the situation, officials acknowledged hundreds of bugs that needed fixing.

Obama said this week that despite opposition to the law by Republicans and others, and the past two months of problems, he believes it will work out in the long run.

"I continue to believe and (I'm)

absolutely convinced that at the end of the day, people are going to look back at the work we've done to make sure that in this country, you don't go bankrupt when you get sick, that families have that security," Obama told ABC News. "That is going be a legacy I am extraordinarily proud of.

---

Associated Press writer Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar contributed to this report.

---

Follow Darlene Superville on Twitter: HTTP://WWW.TWITTER.COM/DSUPERVILLEAP

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
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…

VIDEO: Obama calls Easter time for hope, renewal
VIDEO: Obama calls Easter time for hope, renewal

President Barack Obama is encouraging Americans to draw strength and inspiration from the Easter and Passover holidays.

Woman finds body while hunting for Easter eggs
Woman finds body while hunting for Easter eggs

A Tennessee woman says she made a grisly discovery while hunting for Easter eggs in her back yard with her 3-year-old son: a dead body.

REPLAY: SpaceX rocket blasts off from Cape
REPLAY: SpaceX rocket blasts off from Cape

A SpaceX commercial rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral on schedule Friday afternoon and is heading to the International Space Station.

U.S. power grid vulnerable, experts warn
U.S. power grid vulnerable, experts warn

“The destruction of more than three transmission substations would cause long-term blackouts in many areas of the country,”…

Local runners make emotional return to Boston
Local runners make emotional return to Boston

Several local runners are heading to Boston this weekend to make a statement to the world.

Obama: Anti-Semitic Ukrainian leaflet sickening
Obama: Anti-Semitic Ukrainian leaflet sickening

President Barack Obama's national security adviser says anti-Semitic leaflets distributed in Ukraine were "utterly sickening"…

Ohio woman finds bird leg in Dole spinach bag
Ohio woman finds bird leg in Dole spinach bag

An Ohio woman, who eats a salad nearly every day and makes spinach smoothies, has lost her appetite for her favorite vegetable after making a…

Boston Marathon runner: 'Let's show these jerks'
Boston Marathon runner: 'Let's show these jerks'

After running more than 25 miles, exhaustion was setting in for Roswitha Goossens-Winter, but she was determined to complete the 2013 Boston…

Mich. judge to woman: 'I hope you die in prison'
Mich. judge to woman: 'I hope you die in prison'

If a judge could throw the book at a woman, he managed to do so Wednesday.