The Obama administration said on Friday that it can fix the technical problems plaguing HealthCare.gov and predicted that the website will be functioning smoothly by the end of November. If that’s the case, families and individuals will be able to enroll in coverage by Dec. 15 in order to receive benefits on Jan. 1.
“HealthCare.gov is fixable,” Jeff Zients, the former Office of Management and Budget official brought in to address the problems, said on a Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services conference call on Thursday.
He explained that the “tech surge” that began last week has diagnosed multiple “performance” and “functionality” problems plaguing the site and said that the administration has created a “punch list” to prioritize the fixes. At the top of that list is assuring that health insurers receive correct enrollment data from the people who try to sign up for coverage. Insurers have said that the problem is more widespread than previously thought.
QSSI — one of the primary architects of HelthCare.gov — will serve as the “general contractor” heading up the renovation. On Thursday, another contractor responsible for designing the site, CGI Federal, told a Congressional committee that that the site will be fixed “in time to allow people to enroll in private health insurance by a Dec. 15 deadline.”
“It’s going to take a lot of work and some time, but there is a clear path forward,” Zients said. “Each day the site will get better as we make the necessary fixes and by the end of November HealthCare.gov will work smoothly for the vast majority of users.”
On October 1, the first day of open enrollment, very few visitors were able to get create an account on the site. Now that number has increased to over 90 percent, Zients said. He added that “At points the success rate for those completing applications was very low, with as few as 3 out of 10 users getting through the application process,” and promised that the “system is getting better.”
At a background briefing with reporters on Monday, administration officials said they expect a rush of enrollments in late Nov. and early Dec., meaning that the website could experience high traffic surges just as it becomes fully functional. So far, nearly 700,000 applications have been submitted in both the state and federally-run exchanges and the Congressional Budget Office expects 7 million people to sign up for insurance before the end of the initial open enrollment period on March 31.