Obama administration tries to head off HealthCare.gov traffic jam

(CBS News) WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration on Wednesday put off until next November the opening of the online marketplace for small businesses to buy health insurance. The delay is necessary so it can focus on fixing the main federal website, HealthCare.gov.

Weeks ago, the administration said most of the problems would be fixed by the end of the month, but those who are running the site hope everyone won't try to get on the site at once.

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John Engates
CBS News
White House officials say error rates and wait times are substantially improved, and HealthCare.gov can now handle 50,000 people at once. But they worry that a surge of customers beyond that could provoke another round of outages and negative publicity.

John Engates is chief technology officer for Rackspace Hosting, which specializes in high-capacity e-commerce.

"If 250,000 people show up to a site that can only handle 50,000, it's not usually the case that the first 50,000 have a great experience and the next 200,000 have no experience," Engates says. "It's usually that all 250,000 have a poor experience."

Engates has criticized the launch as a "spectacular public failure." On Monday, he was one of a half-dozen outside technology experts invited to a private White House situation room briefing.

"All of the things that I saw give me confidence that they're headed in the right direction," he says. "They're on the right path."

Engates says to avoid the website at its peak time of midday and consider getting on early in the morning or late afternoon.

The White House delayed the launch of the online exchange for small businesses because it will not be functioning, and officials have to focus on other things first. This affects businesses with 50 or fewer employees looking for group insurance through Obamacare, and that part of the website still isn't ready. The companies will have to enroll offline through insurance companies and brokers.

  • Sharyl Attkisson On Twitter»

    Sharyl Attkisson is a CBS News investigative correspondent based in Washington.

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