Website will meet deadline for fixes, White House says
WASHINGTON - Administration officials are preparing to announce Sunday that they have met their Saturday deadline for improving HealthCare.gov, according to government officials, in part by expanding the site's ability to handle 50,000 users at once.
But they have yet to meet all their internal goals for repairing the health-care site, and it will not become clear how many consumers it can accommodate until more people try to use it.
As of Friday night, federal officials and contractors had achieved two goals, according to government officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss ongoing operations. They had increased the system's capacity and reduced errors. On the other hand, the site's pages do not load as fast as they want, officials said, and they are working to ensure large numbers of consumers can enter the site.
An official at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency overseeing the federal health insurance exchange, said the site's true capacity is somewhat murky because they need to see how it performs under "weekday traffic volumes" when demand is at its peak.
Federal employees and IT contractors were expected to work through the night Friday to try to reach one of the remaining targets: how many people per hour should be able to register and log onto the site. An earlier attempt to make the fix failed several days ago.
Nov. 30 was not originally intended to be a key date for the enrollment system, but it took on outsized political and public importance when administration officials announced five weeks ago that the "vast majority of users" would be able to sign up for insurance through the site by that day.
A combination of federal employees, outside contractors, and a handful of technical and management experts have worked at breakneck speed for five weeks to improve the website's performance as the White House has come under withering criticism from political opponents and some consumers.
In an interview with Barbara Walters that aired on ABC on Friday night, President Obama said he was confident that, in time, Americans would come to embrace his controversial health-care law.
"I continue to believe, and [I am] absolutely convinced, that at the end of the day, people are going to look back at the work we've done to make sure that in this country you don't go bankrupt when you get sick, that families have that security," Obama said. "That is going be a legacy I am extraordinarily proud of."
Administration officials have said for several weeks they define success as having "the vast majority of users" be able to navigate the site and sign up for insurance. While they initially did not define what that meant, White House press secretary Jay Carney said earlier this month that the administration's aim was to have 80 percent of users enroll through the site. Those working on the project have set speed and error rates as a way of measuring that goal.
A significant upgrade in the website's capacity was carried out early this week, according to the government officials, which allowed HealthCare.gov to accommodate more people at once.