Health Care

Administration to release more data on ObamaCare site's progress

Today marks self-imposed deadline for fixes


The Obama administration is expected to give a fuller picture Sunday of whether it met its self-imposed November 30 deadline to allow 50,000 people to access the federal healthcare exchange website simultaneously. 

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have scheduled a press conference for 9 a.m. to discuss the progress of the site,  

Obama administration officials said Saturday that the site had "performed well" and that  upgrades overnight Friday had improved response times and reduced errors. The site was taken offline between 9 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m. Eastern time Saturday, in addition to its regular maintenance window, which falls between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. Eastern time Sunday. 

"With the scheduled upgrades last night and tonight, we're on track to meet our stated goal for the site to work for the vast majority of users," CMS spokesman Aaron Albright told Fox News earlier Saturday. 

CMS spokeswoman Julie Bataille said the installation of new servers Friday night helped improved the response times and error rates, even with heavier-than-usual weekend traffic.

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Though President Obama and other administration officials have tried to downplay the deadline, saying fixes are an ongoing effort, a lot is riding on the site’s performance this weekend, including upcoming elections as well as Americans’ confidence in the president and his signature health-care law, which depends on their participation to work.

The Washington Post reported hours before that the administration was prepared to announce Sunday that they have met deadlines for improving However, technicians failed to reach the deadline to fix at least some of the glitches, according to the newspaper.

Official have repeatedly said in recent weeks that the site would after the deadline be able to accommodate the “vast majority” of online shoppers.

The White House says it's made numerous upgrades in both software and hardware over the last month, which also will allow the site to handle more than 800,000 visitors a day.

Still, in the days leading up to the deadline, the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services continued to scale back expectations, saying not to expect the site to be 100 percent glitch-free.

"If there are extraordinarily high spikes in traffic, which exceed the site's capacity, consumers will be put in a new, advanced queuing system that will give them an expected wait time, or allow them to be notified via when they can return to the site," Bataille said Monday.

Obama recently said he'd consider a "fix" to be successful if 80 percent of the people are able to navigate the site without a major problem.

The nation's largest health insurer trade group said significant problems remain.

Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans, told the Associated Press that insurers have complained that enrollment data sent to them from the website include too much incorrect, duplicative, garbled or missing information. She said the problems must be cleared up to guarantee consumers the coverage they signed up for effective Jan. 1.

The first big test of the repaired website probably won't come for another couple of weeks, when an enrollment surge is expected as consumers rush to meet a Dec. 23 deadline so their coverage can kick in on the first of the year.

Avoiding a break in coverage is particularly important for millions of people whose current individual policies were canceled because they don't meet the standards of the health care law, as well as for a group of about 100,000 in an expiring federal program for high-risk patients.

Democrats and Republicans will be closely watching the site this weekend. With the midterm elections less than a year away, it's vital to Democrats that the site lives up to expectations the president set. Republicans have already suggested they'll launch coordinated attacks linking every congressional Democrat up for re-election to the Affordable Care Act.

In the House, the effort, based around dozens of votes to repeal the law, is about denying Democrats the 17-seat gain they would need to win back the majority. In the Senate, it's about gaining the six seats Republicans need to take control of that chamber.

It was announced earlier this week that Families USA, a self-proclaimed non-partisan organization, has been given a $1.1 million grant to establish a database of ObamaCare "success stories."

Families USA received the money from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on Oct. 4. The grant is meant to help Families USA expand the database of “real people” sharing their stories of enrolling in ObamaCare.

News of the grant has been revealed in the same week that the White House announced two more delays related to the president's landmark health care reform law.

On Wednesday, it was announced that it would delay the launch of an online portal to the health insurance marketplace for small businesses until November 2015. Officials said that the decision to delay the launch had been taken because making repairs to the federal health exchange site, took priority.

The administration also announced that the launch of a Spanish-language sign-up tool would have to be postponed.

In recent weeks, the White House has also pushed back the enrollment deadline for individuals to December 23, given businesses with more than 50 workers until 2015 to provide required health insurance without paying a penalty, and moved the deadline date for individuals to avoid penalties for failing to get coverage back for six weeks.

There was also an announced schedule change in next year's open enrollment season. It will start on Nov. 15, 2014, a month later than originally scheduled, and finish on Jan. 15, 2015, about five weeks later than originally planned.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.