Mon, Dec 02, 2013 - Page 7 News List

Fixes to Obamacare Web site continue

WORK IN PROGRESS:A spokesperson said the passed deadline for the launch of US healthcare Web site on Saturday was ‘not a magical date’


US President Barack Obama’s administration was making more hardware and software fixes to the flawed federal health-insurance Web site as Saturday’s deadline to repair it passed.

“The site is performing well today with low overall error rates and response times despite heavier than usual weekend traffic,” Julie Bataille, spokeswoman for the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said in an e-mailed statement on Saturday.

She said new servers installed for part of the system were allowing more people to use it more quickly.

More changes were planned for last night to make “work smoothly for the vast majority of users,” Bataille said.

The Web site is a crucial piece of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and its success — or failure — will have implications for the nation’s US$2.7 trillion healthcare system.

The outcome will help define Obama’s legacy and influence the legislative agenda in a divided US Congress, where Senate Democrats facing re-election next year have called for changes in the law.

Obama said at a news conference two weeks ago that by the end of last month, most people who go to the site “will see a Web site that is working the way it’s supposed to.”

“The vast majority of consumers will be able to fill out applications, shop, compare plans and enroll in the insurance plans,” Jeffrey Zients, an Obama economic advisor overseeing the fixes, said at a briefing on Tuesday with reporters on condition his comments would not be published until yesterday.

Underscoring the delicate state of repairs, the White House on Friday urged consumers using the Web site to shop during off-peak hours.

The administration has also asked its supporters to hold off promoting the Web site, which enrolled just 248 people in its first two days of operation in October because of software errors.

“Our work will continue into December and beyond to make further improvements,” Aaron Albright, a spokesman for the agency, said on Friday in an e-mail, adding that Saturday was “not a magical date.”

Meanwhile, the automated part of the Obamacare enrollment system used to pay insurers will not be ready until the spring of 2014, Albright said.

The administration last week announced a temporary process in which the companies are to receive estimated payments.

Error rates on the Web site have been cut to less than 0.75 percent from 6 percent, Albright said.

The site’s capacity was expected to double to 50,000 users yesterday to allow more than 800,000 consumer visits per day, enough to handle demand, Zients said.

The Obama administration delayed a crucial part of the law earlier this year, giving businesses an extra year to provide their workers with insurance.

The administration also delayed the second-year start of enrollment for health plans until Nov. 15, 2014, after the congressional elections.

The White House said last week that small businesses will not be able to use the health-insurance Web site until November next year, a one-year delay.

The team working to fix has repaired more than 300 bugs, Zients said.

Workers have been moving at “private-sector speed” with “ruthless prioritization at all times as to what matters most,” he said.

Among the changes: If the Web site’s capacity is exceeded, users will be placed in a “customer-friendly queuing system which would notify you when to come back to the site and sort of be first in line,” Zients said.

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