Policy: Technology

White House: Healthcare.gov fix 'on track'

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The White House says it is “on track” to make the trouble-plagued healthcare.gov website working for most users by its Nov. 30 deadline, less than a week away.

White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest said the website, which is intended to register consumers in new Obamacare insurance exchanges, would be working for the “vast majority” of users by the end of the month.

"The last I heard from CMS [Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services] is that we continue to be on track to meeting the goals that we established for ourselves and established for the website on Nov. 30," Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One, traveling with President Obama to an event in San Francisco.

The botched rollout of the website, coupled with millions of Americans losing their health plans despite Obama’s assurances that they could keep their coverage, threatens to undermine support for the president’s signature domestic achievement.

Democrats also fear that the rollout, which has brought Obama his lowest approval numbers, could endanger efforts to retain the Senate and take back the House in 2014.

The administration tapped former Office of Management and Budget Director Jeffrey Zients to oversee the “tech surge” to repair the website, vowing it would be fixed by December.

Earnest said there had been a “steady improvement in the speed of the website,” which experienced multiple crashes and delays in its initial days.

He said the “error rate has also been driven down to below 1 percent,” down from 6 percent when the website launched, a figure Earnest said was “entirely unacceptable.”

He added that the website “should be able to handle 50,000 concurrent users” and would employ a “queuing system.” If healthcare.gov exceeds its capacity, consumers can opt to receive an email telling them when to return to the website and placing them at the front of the line to register.

As the deadline nears, the administration though has also sought to lower expectations, saying that the website would not be “perfect” and that fixes would continue to be made.

“This continues to be a work in progress,” Earnest told reporters.

White House press secretary Jay Carney has said that the administration’s target is to have 80 percent of users be able to purchase insurance online.

He said that some visitors to the website would continue to have problems, but touted call centers and mail applications, which he said would those consumers sign up for insurance.

“Our goal is to make the website have as few problems as possible so that most Americans can gain access to affordable, quality health insurance as possible,” said Carney last week.

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