The Herald Bulletin

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December 1, 2013

Officials say health care website is improved

WASHINGTON — The errors are fewer, the pages load faster, and more people can log on at the same time to the government's troubled health care website, according to Obama administration officials. Yet, like doctors overseeing a sick patient, they caution that more rehab lies ahead.

Amid all the problems with HealthCare.gov, President Barack Obama set a deadline for Saturday for several significant problems to be resolved. The administration planned a conference call with reporters Sunday morning to give a status report.

The White House is hoping for a fresh start once the website is operating more smoothly and can accommodate up to 50,000 people logging on at the same time. A wave of bad publicity over the site's failures has cast a shadow over the president's signature domestic achievement.

Even with the repairs in place, the site still won't be able to do everything the administration wants, and companion sites for small businesses and Spanish speakers have been delayed. Questions remain about the stability of the site and the quality of the data it delivers to insurers.

Administration officials said HealthCare.gov was "performing well" Saturday, the deadline set to have it working smoothly for the "vast majority of users," after overnight hardware upgrades to boost server capacity. The deadline fell during a long holiday weekend when traffic to the site likely would have been slower anyway and at a level unlikely to expose new technical issues.

More hardware upgrades and software fixes planned for overnight Saturday were expected to further improve speed and reduce errors.

Obama promised a few weeks ago that HealthCare.gov "will work much better on Nov. 30, Dec. 1 than it worked certainly on Oct. 1." But, in trying to lower expectations, he said he could not guarantee that "100 percent of the people 100 percent of the time going on this website will have a perfectly seamless, smooth experience."

The nation's largest health insurer trade group said significant problems remain.

Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans, said insurers have complained that enrollment data sent to them from the website include too much incorrect, duplicative, garbled or missing information. She said the problems must be cleared up to guarantee consumers the coverage they signed up for effective Jan. 1.

The first big test of the repaired website probably won't come for another couple of weeks, when an enrollment surge is expected as consumers rush to meet a Dec. 23 deadline so their coverage can kick in on the first of the year.

Avoiding a break in coverage is particularly important for millions of people whose current individual policies were canceled because they don't meet the standards of the health care law, as well as for a group of about 100,000 in an expiring federal program for high-risk patients.

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