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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The US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday overturned North Carolina's 2013 voter ID law, saying it was passed with “discriminatory intent." The decision sends the case back to the district judge who initially dismissed challenges to the law. "The ruling prohibits North Carolina from requiring photo identification from voters in future elections, including the November 2016 general election, restores a week of early voting and preregistration for 16- and 17-year-olds, and ensures that same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting will remain in effect."
An oil pipeline almost as long as the much-debated Keystone XL has won final approval to transport crude from North Dakota to Illinois, traveling through South Dakota and Iowa along the way. "The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gave the final blessing to the Dakota Access pipeline on Tuesday. Developers now have the last set of permits they need to build through the small portion of federal land the line crosses, which includes major waterways like the Mississippi and the Missouri rivers. The so-called Bakken pipeline goes through mostly state and private land."
The U.S. economy grew at an anemic 1.2% in the second quarter, "well below the 2.6% growth economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had forecast." Consumer spending was "robust," but it was offset by "cautious" business investment. "Since the recession ended seven years ago, the expansion has failed to achieve the breakout growth seen in past recoveries. "The average annual growth rate during the current business cycle, 2.1%, remains the weakest of any expansion since at least 1949."
Sen. Chuck Schumer, the majority leader in waiting, not only thinks his party will take the Senate this fall, but that it's on the cusp of an era of "electoral dominance." He told Politico: “We’re going to have a Democratic generation. [President Barack Obama] helped create it. But it’s just where America’s moving demographically, ideologically and in every way. We’ll have a mandate to get something done.”
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