White House Updates HealthCare.gov, Improves User Capacity
On Wednesday, the Obama administration introduced an upgraded HealthCare.gov, the AP/Washington Times reports.
According to federal officials, the site now features a streamlined application process and has been optimized for use on mobile devices. Specifically, enrollment applications that previously required 76 screens to complete can now be finished in 16 screens (Alonso-Zaldivar, AP/Washington Times, 10/9). Officials estimated that the application process would take most consumers less than half the time it took last year, according to The Hill (Viebeck, The Hill, 10/8).
Federal officials also said consumers returning to the site to renew their health coverage would have several options for doing so, including tools to help them bring up data about their current plans (Radnofsky, Wall Street Journal, 10/8).
Further, officials said the site would not crash during the upcoming open enrollment period. However, the officials did not share many operational details to support that claim, according to the New York Times. However, the officials said "end-to-end" testing on the site is being performed in concert with insurers this week (Pear, New York Times, 10/8). Overall, federal officials said they have so far completed more than five weeks of testing on the application process, compared with 10 days prior to last year's enrollment period (Ellis Nutt, Washington Post, 10/8).
CMS Principal Deputy Administrator Andy Slavitt said, "Where we are focusing in on is a successful consumer experience" (AP/Washington Times, 10/9). Specifically, Slavitt touted the simpler applications and said that the site would be able to handle "significantly more concurrent users" than it did last year. He also said the federal government is hiring additional call center employees to help those with questions about enrollment.
Kevin Counihan, the recently appointed CEO of HealthCare.gov, said the revamped site is "very clean, very accessible" and will offer "a more satisfying consumer experience" (New York Times, 10/8).
However, some observers have said the site still has some flaws. For example, the site will not display insurance premiums until mid-November, about when the Affordable Care Act's second open enrollment period begins. In addition, incorrect translations can be found on the Spanish-language version of HealthCare.gov (AP/Washington Times, 10/9).
Further, it is not clear whether it will be easier for individuals to confirm their identities on the site, which proved difficult during the last enrollment period for U.S. residents who did not have extensive credit histories or those who were born outside of the country. Officials said they would be using the same data sources as they did last year to check users' identities (New York Times, 10/8).
Meanwhile, about 70% of new enrollees will be able to use the newly streamlined application process, while 30% will be diverted to the old, lengthier process. Users being pushed to the old process likely will have circumstances that are more complicated, such as having children who live in households but are not claimed as dependents on tax returns (Wall Street Journal, 10/8).
Slavitt acknowledged that issues could still exist with the site. He said, "We didn't bring you here today to show you this today and say we've got the whole world solved. This is going to be a continuously improving set of capabilities" (Adams, CQ HealthBeat, 10/8).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.