POLITICS: PennAve

HHS: 'We have met the goal' of fixing healthcare.gov

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Politics,White House,Barack Obama,Obamacare,President,Health and Human Services,Health Care,PennAve,Meghashyam Mali,Healthcare.gov,Jeffrey Zients,Technology

The Obama administration on Sunday touted “dramatic progress” in its efforts to fix the botched healthcare.gov website by the president's self-imposed deadline, saying they had “met the goal” of having a system that works for most users.

“While we strive to innovate and improve our outreach and systems for reaching consumers, we believe we have met the goal of having a system that will work smoothly for the vast majority of users,” said a report from the Department of Health and Human Services, detailing the “tech surge” working to repair the troubled Obamacare online insurance marketplace.

“Dramatic progress has been made on improving healthcare.gov,” the report said. “The new management system and instrumentation have helped improve site stability, lower the error rating below 1 percent, increase capacity to allow 50,000 concurrent users to simultaneously use the site and will help drive continuous improvement on the site.”

The Oct. 1 launch of healthcare.gov was plagued by technical issues and -- coupled with President Obama's broken promise that consumers could keep their insurance plans despite new regulations -- threatened to undermine public support for the health law.

The president vowed that the website would be fixed by the end of November, but in recent weeks the administration has sought to downplay expectations and cautioned that repairs would continue to be made well after the deadline.

“There is more work to be done to continue to improve and enhance the website and continue to improve the consumer experience in the weeks and months ahead,” the HHS report said.

The report and a briefing by former Office of Management and Budget Director Jeff Zients, who was tapped to oversee the repair effort, provided details on the extent of the administration's behind-the-scenes work to rescue the flawed website.

Zients said that healthcare.gov was "night and day from where it was on Oct. 1."

According to HHS, the tech surge handled 400 software bugs or fixes and invested in "significant hardware enhancements" to boost user experience on the website. The report said a special team had also been created to focus on monitoring the site and better coordinate responses to technical issues.

HHS said that system response times had been lowered and that error rates had dropped from over 6 percent to under 1 percent. Overall, the website was stable over 90 percent of the time, well above the 42.9 percent level at the start of November.

Critics though say the changes still fall short of the standards that were expected during the initial Oct. 1 launch, and note that the site currently can support only 50,000 users at one time.

HHS said that users spend an average of 20 to 30 minutes on the site. "Based on usage trends, the site will support more than 800,000 consumer visits per day," the report claims.

The Obamacare missteps have taken a stark toll on the president, with Obama sinking in recent weeks to his lowest approval ratings and record numbers questioning his trustworthiness.

But the president and his surrogates argue that despite the website woes and the impending cancellation of millions of Americans’ insurance plans, the overall health care law is working and delivering benefits to the public.

In an interview aired Friday, Obama said he was “extraordinarily proud” of the legacy of the health care law.

But the White House has had to contend with a growing number of setbacks. Last week, the administration was also forced to delay online enrollment for small businesses until November of next year.

Congressional Republicans are also pursuing their investigations into the rocky rollout.

This story was published at 9:00 a.m. and has been updated.

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