After self-imposed deadline, Obamacare website must now prove it can work

A healthcare reform specialist helps people select insurance plans at the free Affordable Care Act (ACA) Enrollment Fair at Pasadena City College on November 19, 2013 in Pasadena, California.  Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

After an 11th hour, overnight maintenance session shut down key parts of the website, HealthCare.gov is open for business – again. And on the day the White House set as a deadline for repairs, the administration believes progress has been made and the website should operate smoothly for most users.

Since the major repairs began last month, the technicians working on the site say they’ve been able to correct more than 300 specific problems and add the capacity to handle 50,000 users at a time – for a total of 800,000 users a day.

But whether the deadline has been met depends on whether the website holds up to the tens of thousands, perhaps even millions, of users who might want to use it at the same time.

There have been repeated warnings this week that the website could get overwhelmed during peak periods, especially in the middle of the day when demand will be greater than capacity.

To ease pressure on the site, instead of those all-too-familiar error messages, customers will be put into a queuing system and given a time to try again.

Politico’s Rachel Smolkin says the White House is walking a fine line, trying to encourage users back to the site without overwhelming it.

“They have to be very careful from declaring a ‘mission accomplished’ moment here,” she said. They need to rebuild confidence slowly. They need to continue to work on the website.”

Democrats on Capitol Hill have been pressuring the White House for a quick fix to boost enrollment numbers.

There is a concern, perhaps bordering on panic, that the longer problems with the Affordable Care Act persist, the more vulnerable the party will be in next year’s midterm elections.

“If the website does not work in the next couple of weeks, expect to hear a lot more noise, a lot more angry noise from the Democrats in Congress,” Smolkin said.

  • Jeff Pegues

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