US HHS says it has reached HealthCare.gov deadline

About 80 percent of website users are now able to complete their insurance applications, officials say

HealthCare.gov, the troubled insurance-shopping website launched in October by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is now working well for most users, officials said Sunday.

The HHS Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has met a deadline set by officials in President Barack Obama's administration to have the site functioning well for the vast majority of users, said Jeffrey Zients, a former acting director at the White House Office of Management and Budget serving as a management consultant on the repairs to the site.

"HealthCare.gov on Dec. 1 is night and day from where it was on Oct. 1," Zients said during a press briefing Sunday. When it launched, the site had "an unacceptable user experience, marked by very slow response times, inexplicable user error messages and frequent website crashes and user outages," he added.

HealthCare.gov also suffered from management problems, "with slow decision-making and diffuse or unclear accountability," Zients added.

About 80 percent of shoppers who have the correct documentation are now able to complete their applications for insurance on the site, said Julie Bataille, communications director for CMS. That number is up from about 30 percent in the first weeks after the site's launch on Oct.1, she said.

Many of the remaining 20 percent will choose to complete their insurance applications over the phone or with in-person advisors because they are more comfortable using those methods instead of the website, she said.

The HealthCare.gov team will continue to look for ways to improve the site, she said.

Since mid-October, a tech team has made more than 400 bug fixes and software improvements to the site, including about 50 over the past weekend, Zients said.

The team has installed dedicated hardware to improve the registration throughput and the site's core database, according to a report issued by CMS Sunday. The hardware upgrades have repaired "the system's on-ramp," Zients said.

The website's up time for the past week was higher than 95 percent, compared to just 43 percent for the week ending Nov. 2, the report said. The site's up time has been 92 percent or higher for the past three weeks. A rapid response team has been able to fix most major problems within an hour during recent weeks, Zients said.

"We needed to get the team working with the speed and urgency of a high-performing private-sector tech company," he said.

In addition, the page response time has dropped from an average of eight seconds late October to less than one second now, and the page error rate has dropped from 6 percent in October to .75 percent now, the report said.

The website should now be able to handle 50,000 concurrent users, Zients said. At peak times when the traffic exceeds that number, the site now has a queuing system that allows users to receive an email telling them when to come back for a faster experience.

HealthCare.gov was a central piece of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare. The law's goal is to allow U.S. residents without health insurance coverage to purchase inexpensive plans through the site or by other means.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is grant_gross@idg.com.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags governmentinternetindustry verticalshealth careGovernment use of ITU.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesHealthcare.govJulie BatailleJeffrey Zients

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?