The Obama administration (finally) announced a plan to fix HealthCare.gov, the broken website to enroll in health insurance through Obamacare.
The site was supposed to be up and running Oct. 1, but it has been mired in technical problems that make it all but unusable. The new deadline for a functional website is Nov. 30, officials said Friday.
"We are confident that by the end of the month of November, HealthCare.gov will operate smoothly," said Jeff Zients, the former White House budget director tasked with finding a way to get the enrollment process back on track. He said a group of technology experts has developed a "punch list" of problems they need to fix in order to get HealthCare.gov on track. At the top of the list, he said, are problems with the information the site is feeding to insurance companies.
Those back-end issues haven't gotten as much attention as the problems people have had signing up to shop for insurance, but they're potentially much more serious. Insurers have warned that if the pace of enrollment picks up before back-end problems are fixed, they'll be swamped with loads of inaccurate, contradictory information and unable to process applications correctly. Zients said Quality Software Services Inc.--the company that built a massive "data hub" for the health care law's exchanges--will take the lead on coordinating repairs to the site.
That decision appears to rectify one of the main complaints about the initial launch: that the Health and Human Services Department put itself in charge of pulling together contractors' work, rather than appointing one contractor to oversee the whole project.
The end-of-November deadline to fix the enrollment process puts uninsured consumers on a tighter timeline to buy coverage. Dec. 15 is the last day to buy coverage that begins on Jan. 1. So there's only a short window between the new target date for HealthCare.gov and the deadline to buy coverage.
But officials said they expect the site to make incremental progress between now and the end of November, so that more people will gradually be able to make their way into the system.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated the name of the company that developed the data hub for state health insurance exchanges.