Major bugs of website fixed, more work still required

Officials stress more work is still needed to bring up to standard

Herald Washington BureauDecember 2, 2013 

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration said Sunday it had met its deadline to fix the major problems that have hobbled the federal health care website since its disastrous debut two months ago, but officials acknowledged that further repairs are necessary.

Reporting on its attempts to improve the HealthCare.gov portal, officials said that Web pages on the site now load in less than one second, down from eight seconds in late October.

The system now operates more than 90 percent of the time, up from 40 percent during some weeks in October. The average rate of timeouts or other Web page failures has dropped to less than 1 percent. It was as high as 6 percent in October.

"We have a much more reliable system," said Jeffrey Zients, the management expert brought in by the White House to help rescue the public face of Obama's signature legislative program.

The website was launched Oct. 1 as a cornerstone of the Affordable Care Act, allowing Americans in 36 states who do not get health insurance from employers to shop for and compare insurance policies. Residents in the other 14 states and the District of Columbia are supposed to use state-operated exchanges.

When the federal website proved to be balky, the administration promised to get it working for the "vast majority of users" by Nov. 30. Officials said Sunday they had achieved that target even if the site was not error-free.

Overall, HealthCare.gov now can handle 50,000 users at once, as was originally intended, officials said. The site should be able to accommodate 800,000 users a day.

Administration officials concede that the site still may not be able to handle the crush of people expected to seek insurance this month. Consumers need to select health plans by Dec. 23 if they want coverage to begin Jan. 1.

During peak times, some consumers may be put into a queue to gain access, officials said.

It is unclear how effectively the site is processing applications. The Obama administration has refused to disclose data about the accuracy of consumer information being transmitted to insurance companies.

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