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Obama official again lowers bar on deadline to fix website, saying will be 'greatly improved'

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Oct. 2, 2013: A man looks over the Affordable Care Act signup page on the HealthCare.gov website in New York.Reuters

The Obama administration is lowering the bar again on the problem-plagued ObamaCare website, saying that it will be “greatly improved” by month’s end -- not fixed.

“The consumer experience … will be greatly improved for the vast majority of users by November 30,” Henry Chao, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ deputy chief information officer, will tell House investigators on Tuesday, according to written testimony obtained by Fox News.

Chao’s testimony, 11 days before the fix deadline, appears to be the most recent case of the administration attempting to lower expectations, or at least prepare Americans for more problems when attempting to enter the site to purchase insurance policies that begin coverage January 1.

His prepared remarks before a House subcommittee on Energy and Commerce also follow a Washington Post story in which sources told the newspaper the administration hopes 80 percent of users can buy insurance plans online.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Monday the other 20 percent includes some Americans who cannot make purchases because of technical errors and those who will never shop on the Internet.

“We will not have a perfect website,” he said. “And that's why there are call-in centers, [for] those who prefer to do it the old-fashioned way.”

Carney also confirmed the administration is trying to work with insurance companies to set up direct enrollment.

Though Chao's remarks suggest a step backward toward fixing healthcare.gov, Carney and other administration officials have for weeks been using the term “vast majority” of users.

The first time the administration mentioned the deadline appears to be October 25 when Jeff Zients, the White House economic adviser overseeing the overhaul, told reporters on a conference call that officials were confident the site “will be smooth for a vast majority of users” by the end of November.

But last week, he hinted that more problems are popping up as the site improves and volume increases.

Also last week, the president appeared to manage expectations by telling a crowd in Dallas that officials “anticipate” the site will be running smoothly by month’s end.

“We are working overtime to get this fixed,” he said Wednesday. “The website is already better than it was at the beginning of October. And by the end of this month, we anticipate that it is going to be working the way it is supposed to, all right? And folks are working 24/7 to make sure that happens.”