Obamacare website at HealthCare.gov still has problems

Teresa Tanoos's picture
The federal health insurance website has not yet been fully fixed.
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The deadline day for HealthCare.gov was Nov. 30, the date the Obama administration promised the website would be back in operation after a disastrous launch two months ago on Oct. 1.

According to the White House administration, the health insurance website is back up for “the vast majority” of people. But whether the problems plaguing it have been resolved is unclear.

Julie Bataille, spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which operates HealthCare.gov, said yesterday that the deadline was "not a magical date”, nor is it being defined as a “re-launch” of the site that failed miserably when it debuted Oct. 1.

HealthCare.gov is supposed to be the site where Americans can shop online marketplaces for health plans under Obamacare, but just the night before the deadline for fixing the site, it was taken down for maintenance until the morning of the deadline.

So did the White House administration meet the deadline it imposed to have the website fixed by Nov. 30?

Unfortunately, the answer is not very clear, as news reports on the date of the deadline were filled with sound bites from members of the Obamacare administration who said very little other than that the site was up and although it may not be working perfectly, it would continue to improve.

Since the failed launch the first time around, most news headlines focused on the ongoing problems plaguing the website, as well as over five million Americans who have had their private plans cancelled despite the president's infamous promise that, “If you like your health insurance, you can keep your health insurance, period.”

Nevertheless, when Nov. 30 rolled around on Saturday, the administration announced that HealthCare.gov was now working for "just about everyone."

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In a statement released last Tuesday, the Department of Health and Human Services reported that 90 percent of visitors to the site were now able to set up accounts.

As Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation put it, the website doesn't have to "to work perfectly for everyone.”

According to the CMS, HealthCare.gov can now handle 50,000 visitors at the same time, but the CMS also warns that the site may not be fully operational for some people.

One major part of the website that is not fully operational or otherwise missing in action is direct enrollment, which is supposed to enable Americans to directly visit a health insurance company’s website to sign up for a plan while making a brief pit-stop at HealthCare.gov to check if they’re eligible for any subsidies.

Also missing is a full-scale advertising campaign promoting HealthCare.gov, which is perhaps the strongest indicator that the site has not been fixed as much as the Obama administration would like Americans to believe.

Whether the lack of publicity for the website will have an impact on the less-than-expected 26,000 Americans signed up so far on the federal exchanges remains to be seen – but the numbers are faring better for those states that are running their own online exchanges. In New York, for example, almost 80,000 people have signed up so far.

For now, Americans will have to wait until mid-December to find out how many signed up in November. Until then, the administration is encouraging people to sign up as soon as possible, especially young adults.

The White House has also extended the open enrollment period by a week, changing the deadline from Dec. 15 to Dec. 23.

SOURCE: Department of Health and Human Services, HealthCare.gov Progress and Performance Report, Dec. 2, 2013

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