Health

Healthcare.gov now works “smoothly for vast majority of users,” White House says on Dec 1 deadline

The HealthCare.gov website works “smoothly” for the vast majority of users,” the Obama Administration declared on Sunday morning, its self-imposed deadline to fix significant problems that rendered the site almost unusable two months ago.

“HealthCare.gov on December 1 is night and day from where it was on October 1,” said Jeff Zients, the management consultant assigned by the Obama Administration to troubleshoot the website. Zients talked to reporters during a press conference call Sunday morning.

Zients, who was called in by Obama to fix the site in mid-Oct, elaborated Sunday on a report that was released Saturday evening under embargo. The report, containing charts and other data, was prepared to provide an official update to how the site is working.

While the site is vastly improved, it will still need an array of improvements in order to handle users at periods of peak demands. During those times, the site will use alerts and email notifications to inform people of a better time to check in on the site.

In what it’s calling “dramatic progress,” the White House said the site’s average response time is now under one second, down from eight seconds in October. The site is up 95 percent of the time, up from 79 percent during the week of October 9, and a pitiful 49 percent for most of October.

The site can handle 800,000 users per day, and 50,000 users at a single time, but that’s still fewer than what the it sees during peak traffic.

The team fixing the site has re-architected the site design and installed dedicated server hardware so that servers aren’t shared for other uses. “We’ve widened the system’s on-ramp. It now has four lanes instead of one or two,” Zients said. The site’s security fire wall has been upgraded. Error rates are down from six percent to under one percent, according to the update.

The improvements come after technical problems in October threatened to undermine President Obama’s credibility. The health care plan has been touted by Obama as his crowning achievement, but Obama’s approval ratings dropped to new lows after the site’s technical problems became a public relations disaster. The NY Times has just published a good timeline of the saga.

The Obama administration has said it plans to enroll 7 million people by March 2014. That 7 million number is the point at which insurers say they can sufficiently spread risks and keep prices down. While some states have built their own health care sites to enroll people, people in 36 states depend on the federal site. The enrollment effort is part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.


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