Oct. 30—The federal health insurance website for 36 states will function smoothly for “the vast majority” of applicants by the end of November, according to testimony Wednesday by U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Sebelius’s timeframe for functionality of the deeply troubled healthcare.gov enrollment website echoed the previous assessment of a senior White House official who President Barack Obama recently placed in charge of repairing the site.

Sebelius took responsibility for problems in the website, which launched Oct. 1, but said she would not consider an extension of the enrollment period due to those problems.

“No one indicated to me that this could go wrong,” Sebelius said in testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Her department recently issued a clarification that individual mandate penalties would not apply to anyone who signs up for coverage by the end of March.

Sebelius: Extended Enrollment Period Unnecessary

Despite problems with the website, people needing coverage can still enroll through other methods, Sebelius said. Other options for applicants seeking coverage in the 36 states with federally operated marketplaces, also known as exchanges, include 2,500 federally funded navigators trained to enroll the public, “thousands” of trained assisters, and insurance brokers, she said.

“A lot of people are not web savvy,” Sebelius said. “They need a live human being.”

The primary alternatives to web-based applications are phone applications through federal call centers or paper applications. Sebelius discounted reports that paper applications take six weeks to process and argued determinations from those applications typically occur in two to four weeks.

Sebelius said enrollment figures for the federal marketplaces will not be released until mid-November. 

Publication Date: Wednesday, October 30, 2013