With Obamacare's rocky rollout and stronger-than-expected enrollment figures now past, the Obama administration is moving to overhaul HealthCare.gov to prevent a return of the glitches that plagued the federal insurance website's debut last October, the Wall Street Journal reports.
And as officials retool the front end of the website to ensure a more seamless experience for users this fall, the back end of the website that coordinates customer information and insurance payments with health insurance companies continues to struggle. Officials told insurers that many of the back end functions are running behind schedule, according to the Journal.
A new open enrollment period for 2015 coverage begins November 15 with a redesigned homepage and new tools for prospective customers. But the tight timeline -- and the scope of the work that needs to be accomplished before then -- are raising some concerns that the site might again stumble out of the gate.
"We're all going to be nervous until November 15," Shaun Green, the chief operating officer of a Utah-based insurer, told the paper. "There is no wiggle room. They're on a very tight time frame."
Some of the changes to the website's front end include a redesign of the application people use to begin the enrollment process, and the comparison-shopping tool that allows consumers to browse insurance plans. The administration is relying on Amazon's cloud computing technology to host several of these functions.
The software that allows people to build accounts and log into the system is also being replaced. That program, called EIDM, became a key contributor to the problems with last year's launch by blocking many who had signed up from accessing the website.
A senior official with a government contractor told the Journal that replacing EIDM is a "major change."
"My opinion, no way they can do that before next open enrollment," he offered. "Tune and tweak? Yes. Replace? No way."
As the administration prepares for a new onslaught of web traffic, officials are still ironing out the kinks created by last year's chaos.
Of the 8 million consumers who enrolled in private plans through HealthCare.gov or one of the state-based marketplaces, roughly 2 million submitted applications with inconsistent information about their income or immigration status. Because the government calculates the level of tax subsidies paid to consumers based on their stated income, these discrepancies must be resolved to prevent an over-payment or under-payment of tax credits.
The ample to-do list will present a tough management challenge for newly-minted Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, who was confirmed to her post by the Senate on Thursday afternoon.