The Obamacare website healthcare.gov will be unavailable during off-peak hours this weekend for so-called maintenance.
Despite, or because of, all the Obamacare hoopla, healthcare.gov users encountered a lot of frustrating glitches and delays trying to access the site to sign up for health insurance or check rates when the federal website went live on Tuesday. Americans also encountered similar glitches this week on health exchange websites set up at the state level.
AP confirms that healthcare.gov — which was built in Canada rather than the US — will go offline over the weekend: “Bedeviled by technology glitches that frustrated millions of consumers, the Obama administration is taking down its health overhaul website for repairs this weekend… Technology problems overwhelmed the launch of new health insurance markets Tuesday, embarrassing the administration just when the health care law known as ‘Obamacare’ was supposed to be introduced to average consumers.”
In more than half of the states, the feds are running the state exchanges because the states declined to set up their own.
In a statement, the US Department of Health and Human Services said that “To make further improvements to the system, we will be taking down the application part of the website for scheduled maintenance during off-peak hours over the weekend. The enhancements we are making will enable more simultaneous users to successfully create an account and move through the application and plan shopping process.” The agency claims the site had over 8 million unique visitors since Tuesday but did not disclose how many people actually signed up for health insurance.
Healthcare.gov will reportedly go offline at 1 a.m. each night over the weekend although call centers will remain open.
President Obama and others in his administration have offered an analogy with Apple and how the company often has to fix technological glitches after introducing new products. The Washington Post notes, however, that “the Obama administration doesn’t have a basically working product that would be improved by a software update. They have a Web site that almost nobody has been able to successfully use. If Apple launched a major new product that functioned as badly as Obamacare’s online insurance marketplace, the tech world would be calling for Tim Cook’s head.”
Commenting on the Obamcare website issue, House Speaker John Boehner (R – Ohio) said “The news that its enrollment system is already going offline confirms that the launch of the president’s health care law has been an unmitigated disaster. What the administration wanted to dismiss as simple glitches have turned out to be a system-wide failure. The White House cannot even say how many Americans were able to navigate the fatally-flawed system to actually enroll in a plan. This announcement is more proof that we need to delay the law and provide basic fairness, just as Republicans have called for…”
In the following tweet, White House official Tara McGuinness disagreed with the Speaker’s assessment:
.@SpeakerBoehner: the site is not down. Application offline for a few hrs after 1am over the wkd. we did this this am too – maintenance
— Tara McGuinness (@HealthCareTara) October 4, 2013
Added: According to Reuters, healthcare.gov issues require more than a band aid solution: “Five outside technology experts interviewed by Reuters, however, say they believe flaws in system architecture, not traffic alone, contributed to the problems. For instance, when a user tries to create an account on HealthCare.gov, which serves insurance exchanges in 36 states, it prompts the computer to load an unusually large amount of files and software, overwhelming the browser, experts said. If they are right, then just bringing more servers online, as officials say they are doing, will not fix the site. ‘Adding capacity sounds great until you realize that if you didn’t design it right that won’t help,’ said Bill Curtis, chief scientist at CAST, a software quality analysis firm, and director of the Consortium for IT Software Quality. ‘The architecture of the software may limit how much you can add on to it. I suspect they’ll have to reconfigure a lot of it.'”
Did you try to enroll in a health insurance plan through an online exchange? If so, what was the experience like for you?