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Health care website stumbles on deadline day

Associated Press
March 31, 2014
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The Obama administration's health care website stumbled early Monday , falling out of service for nearly four hours on deadline day for sign-ups. After it was fixed, officials plowed ahead with a nationwide promotional drive, almost like getting out the vote on Election Day.

Early visitors to HealthCare.gov on Monday morning saw messages that the site was down for maintenance. At times the visitors were also directed to a virtual waiting room — a feature designed to ease the strain on the site during periods of heavy use.

Administration spokesman Aaron Albright said the website was brought back up shortly before 9 a.m., Eastern time. But people who missed their window sign up may still be able to take advantage of a grace period and other special extensions announced last week.

Albright said the site undergoes "regular nightly maintenance" during off-peak hours and that period was extended because of a "technical problem." He did not say what the problem was, but a statement from the Department of Health and Human Services called it "a software bug" unrelated to application volume.

Albright said consumers who left an email address would be "invited back" when the system got up and running again.

Officials said the website wasn't hacked. The site, which was receiving 1.5 million visitors a day last week, received about 1.7 million on Sunday. The federal site serves 36 states. Fourteen states and the District of Columbia are running their own sites, some of which have been crippled by technical problems.

Nonetheless, the administration and the states appear to be on track to sign-up about 6.5 million people for subsidized private health insurance through the new online markets. That's half way between a revised goal of 6 million and the original target of 7 million. The earlier goal was scaled back after the website's disastrous launch last fall, which kept it off-line during most of October.

It is unclear how many consumers who have signed up ultimately closed the deal by paying their first month's premium. Also unknown is how many were previously uninsured — the real test of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law.

Albright said Monday morning that the website is typically down for maintenance during the period from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. EDT, and that as a result of the technical problems the site was down for close to four additional hours before returning to full strength.

The sign-up website had been taken down briefly Friday, with consumer interest surging.

A recent analysis for The Associated Press by the performance-measurement firm Compuware found that the government site runs slow compared with health insurance industry peers.

With long lines reported at centers offering in-person assistance to enroll, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was leading the deadline day sign-up effort. Sebelius planned to spend much of the day Monday working out of the department's TV studio, conducting interviews by satellite with local media stations around the country.

Although March 31 was the last day officially to sign up, millions of people were potentially eligible for extensions granted by the administration for various reasons.

That includes consumers who had begun enrolling by the deadline but didn't finish, perhaps because of errors, missing information or website glitches. The government says it will accept paper applications until April 7 and take as much time as necessary to handle unfinished cases on HealthCare.gov. Rules may vary in states running their own insurance marketplaces.

The administration is also offering special extensions to make up for all sorts of problems that might have kept people from getting enrolled on time: Natural disasters. Domestic abuse. Website malfunctions. Errors by insurance companies. Mistakes by application counselors.

To seek a special enrollment period, contact the federal call center, at 1-855-889-4325, or the state marketplace and explain what happened. It's on the honor system. If the extension is approved, that brings another 60 days to enroll.

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  1. So much for Eric Holder's conversation about race. If white people have got something to say, they get sued over it. Bottom line: white people have un-freer speech than others as a consequence of the misnamed "Civil rights laws."

  2. I agree, having seen three shows, that I was less than wowed. Disappointing!!

  3. Start drilling, start fracking, and start using our own energy. Other states have enriched their citizens and nearly elminated unemployment by using these resources that are on private land. If you are against the 'low prices' of discount stores, the best way to allow shoppers more choice is to empower them with better earnings. NOT through manipulated gov mandated min wage hikes, but better jobs and higher competitive pay. This would be direct result of using our own energy resources, yet Obama knows that Americans who arent dependent of gov welfare are much less likely to vote Dem, so he looks for ways to ensure America's decline and keep its citizens dependent of gov.

  4. Say It Loud, I'm Black and Ashamed: It's too bad that with certain "black" entertainment events, it seems violence and thuggery follows and the collateral damage that it leaves behinds continues to be a strain on the city in terms of people getting hurt, killed or becoming victims of crimes and/or stretching city resources. I remember shopping in the Meadows area years ago until violence and crime ended make most of the business pack you and leave as did with Lafayette Square and Washington Square. Over the past 10 to 12 years, I remember going to the Indiana Black Expo Soul Picnic in Washington Park. Violence, gang fights and homicides ended that. My great grandmother still bears the scares on her leg from when she was trampled by a group of thugs running from gun fire from a rival gang. With hundreds of police offices downtown still multiple shootings, people getting shot downtown during Black Expo. A number of people getting shots or murdered at black clubs around the city like Club Six on the west side, The Industry downtown, Jamal Tinsley's shot out in front of the Conrad, multiple fights and shootings at the skating rinks, shootings at Circle Center Mall and shooting and robberies and car jackings at Lafayette Mall. Shootings and gang violence and the State Fair. I can go on and on and on. Now Broad Ripple. (Shaking head side to side) Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Ashamed.

  5. Ballard Administration. Too funny. This is the least fiscally responsive administration I have ever seen. One thing this article failed to mention, is that the Hoosier State line delivers rail cars to the Amtrak Beech Grove maintenance facility for refurbishment. That's an economic development issue. And the jobs there are high-paying. That alone is worth the City's investment.

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