Mixed Reaction on Fixed HealthCare.gov From Navigators, Brokers
On Monday, Insurance brokers and navigators helping U.S. residents sign up for coverage through HealthCare.gov reported mixed reviews, one day after the Obama administration said it had met its goal to repair the site, AP/Miami Herald reports (Kennedy, AP/Miami Herald, 12/3).
Some brokers and assisters said they were able to complete applications in one hour or less, while others said they continued to face barriers. According to the Washington Post, most consumers and assisters on Sunday and early Monday said they had noticed improvements in HealthCare.gov and were able to create an account, shop and purchase health plans.
However, around 10 a.m. website traffic reached the "mid-30,000" range -- significantly below the indicated capacity of 50,000 simultaneous users -- and the site began to slow, forcing federal officials to deploy the new queuing system, according to CMS spokesperson Julie Bataille. Users that logged on during peak traffic times received a message that said the wait was necessary "so we can make sure there's room for you to have a good experience on our site" (Kliff/Sun, Washington Post, 12/2).
Surge in Traffic
Overall, the Obama administration reported a surge in visitors to the website, with about 375,000 users between midnight and noon on Monday, nearly double the traffic the site has received on a typical Monday, Bataille said (Easley, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 12/2). She added that the website appeared on track to meet its goal of handling 800,000 in a single day, with about 750,000 users visiting the website by 5:30 p.m. Monday (Washington Post, 12/2).
White House press secretary Jay Carney on Monday told reporters that the administration "absolutely anticipated that on this day in particular" the website "would see a surge in visitors" because it was the first workday after it announced that most of the repairs to the system had been completed (Eilperin, "Post Politics," Washington Post, 12/2).
Some experts and consumer assisters question whether the website will be able to handle an anticipated surge in users just before the Dec. 23 deadline to enroll in coverage that begins on Jan. 1 (AP/Miami Herald, 12/3).
Errors, Delays Persist
According to Bataille, the website on Monday had an error rate of 0.9%, just under the target of 1% or lower, while page load times were about two seconds, quadruple the target of half a second or less (Washington Post, 12/2).
In addition, some users and online assisters in South Florida, Iowa and Illinois reported various delays and difficulties submitting an application. John Foley, who leads a team of navigators in South Florida, said they were only able to successfully enroll one of a handful of return applicants who came to their office before glitches started Monday morning (AP/Miami Herald, 12/3).
One issue that continues to prevent individuals from enrolling appears to involve identity verification (Washington Post, 12/2). Reporter Charles Ornstein detailed his experience with the updated enrollment system, noting that he experienced significant delays and was incorrectly told that his application, which included his identity verification, was missing information. Ultimately, he said he received an error message and was told by a live chat specialist to try again later (Ornstein, ProPublica, 12/2).
In addition, for those who were able to submit their applications, there continued to be discrepancies between a plan's listed out-of-pocket cost and the prices insurers have on file (Washington Post, 12/2).
Further, administration officials and a new "Payer Exchange Performance Team," made up of insurance industry leaders, in a meeting on Monday acknowledged that about one-third of completed applications since Oct. 1 contain errors generated by the computer system. The errors include:
- Failure to notify insurers about new customers;
- Duplicate enrollments or cancellation notices for the same person;
- Incorrect information about family members; and
- Miscalculated federal subsidies.
White House senior communications adviser Tara McGuinness said, "We've got a team of experts already working closely with issuers to make sure that every past and future 834 is accurate." The 834s are documents that are sent to insurers daily to update them on enrollees in their plans.
Senior officials noted that the team already has reduced the cases of missing data from the forms from 3% last week to 0.5% now.
On Monday, Bataille recommended that consumers who choose a health plan through HealthCare.gov contact the insurer afterward to make certain they are actually enrolled. She said, "Consumers should absolutely call their selected plan and confirm that they have paid their first month's premium, and coverage will be available Jan. 1" (Goldstein/Eilperin, Washington Post, 12/2).
HHS Launches Expanded Window Shopping Feature
In related news, HHS on Monday launched an expanded window shopping feature on HealthCare.gov, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports. The new tool allows consumers to access various details about potential health plans, such as information about provider networks and out-of-pocket costs, without creating an account (Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 12/2).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.