Dec. 2—Federal officials claimed success in enabling smooth use of healthcare.gov for the “vast majority” of applicants seeking insurance coverage, which followed two months of widespread failures with the enrollment website. However, much more work remains on the administrative functions of the site.

The Obama administration had set Dec. 1 as the day that the central enrollment site for 36 federally operated health insurance marketplaces, or exchanges, would function smoothly for 80 percent of users after a disastrous Oct. 1 launch.

“The bottom line: Healthcare.gov on Dec. 1 is night and day from where it was on Oct. 1,” Jeffrey Zients, the administration official overseeing the improvements, said in a Dec. 1 call with reporters.

The administration also released a progress report on its repair efforts, which among other improvements have increased the website’s uptime from less than 43 percent Oct. 1 to more than 95 percent.  Per-page system time outs or failures dropped from more than 6 percent to less than 1 percent.

Software Fixes, Hardware Upgrades, and More

Improvements to the website were credited to a concerted push that included bringing in Zients and a range of private sector IT reinforcements.

The administration also has worked through a prioritized punch list of software fixes, hardware upgrades, and user enhancements over the past few weeks, “So a total of more than 400 software fixes have combined to improve the user’s experience as they look for information, fill out applications, shop, and enroll,” according to the report.

Officials outlined the efforts to address two of the sites main function: the front-end registration database and a core database that enables consumers to shop for coverage.

The site now has the capacity to handle 50,000 concurrent or simultaneous users, or more than 800,000 consumer visits a day.

In anticipation of demand outstripping the improved capacity, the administration has added a new queuing system to email notifications when traffic on the site has slowed and they should come back.

Problems Continue

Despite the administration’s upbeat assessment, its own progress update website had more than 20 comments from frustrated applicants reporting ongoing problems with the website since Dec. 1.

Administration officials also have confirmed that up to 40 percent of the website remains unbuilt, including functions that will pay insurers selling plans the federal insurance subsidies designed to allow lower income people to afford coverage. 

And insurers continue to express concern that the website continues to send them error-filled enrollment forms for applicants who have selected coverage. That continuing problem could overwhelm a personnel-intensive workaround insurers have instituted to double check the accuracy of each application as it is sent to them.

Julie Bataille, director of communications for CMS, told reporters Monday that a new fix corrected 80 percent of problems in paperwork sent to insurers, but she was unable to say how often such applications have errors.

Publication Date: Monday, December 02, 2013