HealthCare.gov emergency doctor outlines triage plan

(CBS News) WASHINGTON -- It all sounded pretty good the day HealthCare.gov went online: President Obama said people were flocking to the site. And any "glitches," as he called them, would be fixed and they'd have the site running more quickly in just a few hours.

On Friday -- 24 days later -- the man the president brought in to rescue his health insurance program acknowledged the painfully obvious: that the problems have been far worse than we were told. Jeffrey Zeints said they'll take weeks -- if not longer -- to fix. Plus, he's shaking up the team overseeing the repairs.

Jeffrey Zients, acting director and deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, testifies before the Senate Budget Committee on the president's fiscal year 2014 budget proposal on April 11, 2013 in Washington, DC.
Photo by T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images

The government has brought in consultant Zients to spearhead repairs of HealthCare.gov. On Friday, what he told reporters on a conference call was a game changer: the website's problems amount to way more than a glitch.

"It'll take a lot of work and there are a lot of problems that need to be addressed, he said. "There is a punch list of fixes and we're going to punch them out one by one."

That assessment goes much deeper than the idea Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius promoted: that the main problem was unexpected volume.

"We were just wildly incorrect," she said. "The number so far exceeded that. And now there are very specific diagnostics in place."

Zients says there are two categories of issues with the website: performance, which is speed, response time and reliability; and function, the bugs that prevent the software from working properly.

The government also announced it's removing the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as overseers of repairs. That job is going to QSSI, one of the tech companies that helped build HealthCare.gov.

"And by the end of November, HealthCare.gov will work smoothly for the vast majority of users," said Zients.

A woman looks at the HealthCare.gov insurance exchange internet site October 1, 2013 in Washington, DC.
KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

That end of November date could be make or break for affordable care, according to one former Obamacare official who didn't want to be identified. He said the government has weeks -- not months -- to fix the website before the entire business model gets thrown off.

Joel Ario agrees that fixes must come fast. He was director of the HHS Office of Exchanges.

"The longer they go, the more people get impatient about it," he said. "But for the period we're in now, I think we're very much in a zone where the administration has about a month here to get it right."

The government said that as few as 3 in 10 people who try can complete the application process. But it said 9 in 10 people are at least able to create an account. However, I tried three times to create an account and the system would not let me do it.

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