October 8, 2013

Health care website still having glitches

After emergency repairs over the weekend, consumers in different parts of the country continue to report delays.

The Associated Press

The glitch-ridden rollout of President Barack Obama's health care law has opponents crowing: "Told you so!" and insisting it should be paused, if not scrapped.

click image to enlarge

This photo provided by HHS shows the main landing web page for HealthCare.gov. After emergency repairs over the weekend, consumers in different parts of the country Monday continued to report delays on healthcare.gov, as well as problems setting up security questions for their accounts. The administration says the site's crowded electronic "waiting room" is thinning out. Still, officials announced it will be down again for a few hours starting at 1 a.m. Tuesday for more upgrades and fixes. (AP Photo/HHS)

But others, including insurance companies, say there's still enough time to fix the online enrollment system before uninsured Americans start getting coverage on Jan. 1.

After emergency repairs over the weekend, consumers in different parts of the country Monday continued to report delays on healthcare.gov, as well as problems setting up security questions for their accounts. The administration says the site's crowded electronic "waiting room" is thinning out. Still, officials announced it will be down again for a few hours starting at 1 a.m. Tuesday for more upgrades and fixes.

Despite the confusion, the insurance industry has held off public criticism. Alarmed that only a trickle of customers got through initially, insurers now say enrollments are starting to come in and they expect things to improve.

The last major federal health care launch — the Medicare prescription program in 2006 — also had big startup problems. Government leaders who oversaw it say things could look very different in a couple of months for Obama's law if the administration manages to get a grip on the situation.

"There wasn't enough time for testing, so the dress rehearsal became opening night," said Michael Leavitt, who as President George W. Bush's top health official, was responsible for the Medicare drug plan debut.

"The moment of truth is going to come in the middle of November, when people want to see the real deal," said Leavitt, who currently heads a consulting firm that advises states on the health overhaul. "If they don't have this running smoothly by then, it's going to be a bigger problem than we're seeing today."

The insurance industry is calling for patience. "This is a marathon and not a sprint," Karen Ignagni, head of the trade group America's Health Insurance Plans, said in a statement. "We anticipate enrollments will continue to increase in the days and weeks ahead."

Obama's law — also known as the Affordable Care Act — was designed to provide insurance for people who don't have access to coverage on the job. Middle-class uninsured people can buy a government-subsidized private plan, while the poor and near-poor will be steered to Medicaid in states that agree to expand the safety net program. The online insurance markets were envisioned as the 21st century portal to an overhauled system.

But when the health care markets went live last week, millions of curious Americans overwhelmed federal and state insurance websites. The level of interest could be read as a good sign, since polls just prior to the launch found most uninsured people unaware it was coming. Yet for many, the consumer experience was like a Saturday morning spent twiddling thumbs at the local motor vehicle department.

Some prospective customers got a screen that told them to wait — and nothing happened, for hours. Others started to sign up and got trapped by a recurring glitch when they tried to set up security questions to protect their personal accounts. Some who got through all the way to the end found their sessions had timed out, and they had to start over.

The federal website that serves 36 states wasn't the only problem; several states also had a rough launch. As Republicans opposed to "Obamacare" showed they were willing to shut down the government in an effort to stop it, the administration seemed to be its own worst enemy.

(Continued on page 2)

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors




Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)