White House: ACA Website Repairs ‘On Track,’ User Issues Still Likely
On Tuesday, the Obama administration said the technical team working to repair the federal health insurance exchange website is "on track" to have most issues resolved by Nov. 30, but officials acknowledged that some users still will experience delays and outages in December, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.
According to "Healthwatch," the announcement was the latest attempt by the Obama administration to downplay expectations for its self-imposed Nov. 30 deadline to have the website functioning properly (Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 11/25).
CMS spokesperson Julie Bataille said, "The system will not work perfectly on December 1, but it will operate much better than it did in October" (Howell, Washington Times, 11/25). She acknowledged that users still will experience "periods of suboptimal performance" in December as a result of heavy traffic or technical issues that still are being addressed ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 11/25).
In addition, Bataille noted that there was an "unexpected outage" that caused the website's application and enrollment tool to crash for about an hour Monday morning, as well as periods of "latency or slowness" over the weekend. However, she noted that the website was "never unavailable" (Conn, Modern Healthcare, 11/25).
Meanwhile, the White House says there has been "steady improvement" in the speed of the website, noting that it should be able to handle 50,000 users at one time by the end of the month (Sink, "Briefing Room," The Hill, 11/25).
Bataille said that the technical "surge team" that has been working on the problem-plagued website "will continue to work 24/7" over the holidays. She noted several improvements made to the website this past weekend, such as adding storage capacity and making upgrades "focused on enhancing user experience, improving enrollment and streamlining workflow" for insurance agents and brokers.
Bataille also said the technical team is "making progress" on fixing issues related to transmitting information between the federal site and health insurers (Modern Healthcare, 11/25).
New Queuing System
Among other repairs, the administration on Monday said it is installing a new "queuing system" that will kick in when website traffic exceeds 800,000 visitors to prevent the website from crashing, Reuters reports.
Bataille said that if volume becomes an issue, visitors "will be queued in order to ensure a smoother process." She noted that the system will allow users to browse educational material while they wait or will allow them to submit an email address where they can later be notified that they can now access the system (Morgan, Reuters, 11/25).
Consumers Report ID Verification Issues
In related news, the Obama administration on Monday said that thousands of visitors to HealthCare.gov have been unable to verify their identity, preventing them from shopping for health plans, the New York Times reports.
Administration officials said the government had created strict procedures to verify individuals' identities in order to prevent fraud and identity theft. Users are asked to respond to questions based on information in their credit reports. Those who cannot verify their identity are told to call the help desk at Experian, a credit reporting agency, for "ID proofing."
However, some consumers, as well as agents and brokers tasked with helping people enroll in coverage through the exchanges, say they are experiencing significant delays and difficulties. John Filbin of New London, N.H., said he submitted both an electronic and paper version of his personal information in early October and has still not been approved to shop for plans.
HHS spokesperson Joanne Peters said that 90% of consumers were able to create accounts and complete "identity proofing" online. However, she said "some consumers whose information does not match records, such as when an alternate name is used or their address does not match, may be referred to a call center" for identification verification, and in complicated cases they could experience "a wait time before receiving a determination" (Pear, New York Times, 11/25).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.