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Health Care

November Deadline for Obamacare Website Fixes in Question

An official says it is unlikely HealthCare.gov will be fully functional by the administration's deadline.

Problems with HealthCare.gov are proving quite persistent.(Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images)

photo of Sophie Novack
November 13, 2013

Problems with the Obamacare website are so persistent that it is unlikely the system will work fully by the end of November, The Washington Post reports.

According to an official with knowledge of the project, HealthCare.gov is still unable to handle high volumes of traffic, and the main contractor for the site, CGI Federal, has repaired only about six of the 10 problems it has addressed. 

The administration has set the end of November as the time by which the website will be operating smoothly for the vast majority of users. The goal is considered important for individuals and insurance companies to have sufficient time to figure out coverage by the enrollment and mandate penalty deadlines.

 

Administration officials have maintained that the site would be largely operational by then, and contractors and government workers have been working around the clock on fixes. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner and Health and Human Services Sectretary Kathleen Sebelius touted improvements to the site at Senate hearings last week.

However, the official who spoke to The Post said that workers have concluded a "divide-and-conquer" strategy that puts more emphasis on other means of enrollment—such as call centers and signing up with the insurance companies directly—would be necessary to enroll large numbers of people soon, so the online system isn't overwhelmed.

Unfortunately, these alternative methods are facing some of the same problems as the online system. Insurance companies have been pressing for greater ability to enroll people directly, as they currently rely on the online system to determine whether individuals qualify for premium subsidies, which is not working properly.

The official said workers will have this part of the system working reliably within two to three weeks, so that it is able to handle requests from insurers and call centers about subsidy eligibility.

CMS announced on a press call Tuesday that it is sending emails to 275,000 people who have unsuccessfully attempted to enroll for coverage through HealthCare.gov, encouraging them to try again now that the website is improving. The emails are being sent in waves so that high volume does not overwhelm the site.

Pressure is increasing to fix the website fast, as lawmakers are set to vote on legislation this week to allow consumers to keep their old insurance plans. The White House says this would undermine the functionality of the law. 

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