The Obama administration may be turning the page on HealthCare.gov, the beleaguered website designed to help uninsured people enroll in health care coverage in 36 states. On Sunday, officials announced that the site is “night and day” from when the marketplace first opened on Oct 1., and is now able to host 50,000 concurrent shoppers or 800,000 users over the entire day. As few as 500 visitors crippled the site in early October.
Users who couldn’t enter the website or became stuck in an endless loop of error messages report that they’re now able to log into their accounts and resume shopping for plans, use the anonymous shopping tool to compare policies, view which drugs their plans cover and if their doctors or hospitals are included in plan networks. The site also includes a new “reset” button which allows returning users to trash their old incomplete applications and “start anew.”
Meanwhile, interest in the site is steadily increasing. Approximately 100,000 people signed up for insurance through the federal exchange in November — a roughly four-fold increase from October, when the website was overcome with technical problems — and states that are running their own exchanges are similarly seeing a surge in enrollment. Add that to the news that some states are reporting higher than expected interest among young and healthy people, and it’s easy to see why Obama officials are cautiously optimistic.
In Kentucky, “27 percent of the 10,800 people enrolled in qualified health plans are 35 or younger.” In California, 22.5 percent of the state’s 31,000 enrollees were under 34 and Maryland reports that “more than a quarter of the 1,278 people who did sign up last month for plans there are in the same cohort.” A CNN/ORC poll released last Wednesday found that young people are generally more optimistic about the law, with just 25 percent of 18-to-34 year olds viewing it as a failure and seven in 10 insisting that the site’s problems could be fixed.
“We feel confident about the site working now as it was intend originally conceived to do — granted two months later than we or anyone would have liked to have seen,” White House Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd on Monday morning, “we have confidence in that.” She stressed that the administration expected high volumes to return to HealthCare.gov over the coming days and purchase insurance before Dec. 23, the last day for coverage that begins on Jan. 1.
But while the user interface has improved, the back-end of the site is still causing problems for insurers, some of whom are still receiving erroneous or duplicative enrollment information through so-called 834 transmission forms. During a conference call with reporters on Sunday, Health and Human Services officials stressed that they could not fully address those problems until users returned to the site, though the administration is also exploring alternative methods of enrollment.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that administration officials expected a surge in traffic following the Thanksgiving holiday:
Lots of demand at http://t.co/vQ74UBBs7F . More than 375k visitors so far today as of noon EDT.
— HealthCare.gov (@HealthCareGov) December 2, 2013
CMS says that 80% of the information reporting errors (834s) to insurance companies were due to one bug that has now been fixed.
— Shawna Thomas (@ShawnaNBCNews) December 2, 2013