|By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR, Associated Press|
But the insurance industry and others experienced with rolling out new programs say there's still enough time to fix the glitches with President
The online enrollment system at healthcare.gov was down again for upgrades in the wee hours Tuesday. It made its debut just a week ago and technical experts already have been called in to fix problems several times.
Consumers in different parts of the country Monday continued to report delays, as well as problems setting up security questions for their accounts. However, the administration says the site's crowded electronic "waiting room" is thinning out.
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
"There wasn't enough time for testing, so the dress rehearsal became opening night," said
"They do have an incentive in the next couple of weeks to get this right," added Leavitt, who currently heads a consulting firm that advises states on the health overhaul. "The real crunch is going to be coming
The insurance industry is calling for patience. "This is a marathon and not a sprint,"
Obama's law — 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
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 rough launches. 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.
Technology experts say the problems are probably due to a combination of factors: unexpectedly high demand, as well as possible software flaws and shortcomings in design. Sometimes a high volume of users can expose software problems that went undetected in testing, they said.
The administration has mainly blamed high volume.
Official media releases have hinted at software and system design problems, without providing detail. For example, one referred to procuring "dedicated hardware" for an unnamed "specific component of the system that became over-stressed."
Problems caused by website overload should ease as more equipment is added. Software and design flaws are trickier to fix, meaning more overnight repairs.
"I would think they have a good handle not only on enrollment, but on each step of the process where the drop-offs are occurring," McClellan said. "If you aren't tracking those kinds of performance metrics for the system in close to real time, it's awfully hard to figure what's wrong in order to fix it."
Now a health policy expert with the nonpartisan
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