Healthcare.gov Woes Almost Fixed, Can Handle Normal Traffic, White House Says

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A man fills out an information card during an Affordable Care Act outreach event hosted by Planned Parenthood for the Latino community in Los Angeles on Sept. 28, 2013.

The White House said on Sunday that the Healthcare.gov website has been functioning smoothly, following emergency repairs, two months after a bungled launch resulted in numerous complaints about technical glitches and threatened to derail one of the key policy reforms of the Obama administration.

President Barack Obama drew flak after the Oct. 1 launch of Healthcare.gov, which disappointed millions of Americans who encountered slow or frozen pages, bugs and incorrect or lost information. The website was discovered to be woefully inadequate to handle the amount of traffic it received. 

However, the portal has come a long way since then, with an “uptime” of 95 percent as of Nov. 30, compared to only 43 percent at the beginning of November, and double its original capacity to handle traffic, Jeffrey Zients, the president’s appointee to fix the website’s problems, said, Reuters reported.

“The bottom line is Healthcare.gov on December first is night and day from where it was October first,” Zients said. “We've widened the system's on-ramp; it now has four lanes instead of one or two. We have a much more stable system that is reliably open for business.”

The website will now be able to handle 50,000 users at the same time and 800,000 users a day, administration officials said, according to Reuters, but Zients warned that if website traffic peaks before a Dec. 23 deadline for insurance coverage beginning on Jan. 1, some users may face problems in completing online applications.

Even when traffic volumes are within the set limit, some people may face problems, administration officials said, but more repairs are ongoing to fix the remaining issues, Reuters reported.

Sunday’s affirmation from the White House was well-received by Democrats, but Republican lawmakers said fixing the website does not fix problems with the Affordable Care Act.

“Let's hope that this is now the end of the botched website [and] we can move into a new phase where people are enrolling, where people are seeing the benefits of expanded coverage,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told MSNBC.

But Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said Obamacare puts “downward pressure on employment” and “upward pressure on the deficit,” adding: “I don't know how you fix the many fundamental problems of this program,” USA Today reported.

The administration now faces the tricky task of promoting enrollment under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, without driving website traffic too high, as the White House prepares to promote the portal to specific target audiences, in December.

“We aren't planning any major promotions to specifically drive traffic over the next few days, because we expect that it won't be necessary. But whether or not we need to take steps to drive traffic is something we will be continually evaluating. So if traffic drops off, we will take steps to drive it,” a senior administration official told Reuters.

Even if Healthcare.gov does not face any further glitches, a deadline looms at the end of March 2014, when the Obama administration needs to have signed up about 7 million people for insurance coverage, including millions of healthy young people who are needed to keep the program’s costs from skyrocketing.

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