November 12, 2013, 11:00 pm
Report: Unlikely O-Care site fix by Nov. 30
By Justin Sink
The Obama Administration will not likely reach its goal of fixing the HealthCare.gov website by the end of the month, an anonymous official with knowledge of the project told the Washington Post.
Failure to meet the Nov. 30 deadline would strike another serious credibility blow to the embattled ObamaCare program, and undoubtedly lead to a new flood of calls for extending the insurance enrollment period and delaying the individual mandate at the heart of the legislation.
It would also be a political disaster for the White House, which has struggled in recent weeks with a flood of negative press about problems with the president’s signature legislative achievement.
According to the official quoted by the Post, the website struggles when more than 20,000-30,000 individuals attempt to simultaneously access it.
In an interview shortly after the launch of the website with USA Today, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park said that the government initially planned for between 50,000-60,000 simultaneous users.
In that interview, Park said the original capacity goal was set based on the history of Medicare Part D, a prescription-drug program for seniors that launched during the Bush Administration. That website saw an all-time high of 30,000 simultaneous users.
In the days immediately following the launch of HealthCare.gov, a quarter million individuals were attempting to access the website at the same time — around ten times the traffic that the Post’s source says the website is capable of handling now.
The administration downplayed the technical issues when asked about the Post’s report late Tuesday night.
“The challenges we are addressing today are a snapshot of November 12, not November 30,” said Julie Bataille, director of communications for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. “We are working 24/7 to make improvements so that by the end of the month so that the site is working smoothly for the vast majority of users. We are making progress, including fixes to reduce error rates and get the site moving faster.”
And White House press secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday afternoon that the administration expected the website “to be functioning properly and effectively for the vast majority of Americans by the end of the month.”
“Any website of this size and complexity will occasionally have issues with it,” Carney said. “That’s true of major websites today in the commercial sphere. But we expect it to be functioning effectively for the vast majority of users so that they can navigate through it, review their options, find out whether or not they’re eligible for tax credits, and choose coverage that fits their needs, both their financial needs and their coverage needs.”
But if the administration is unable to boost capacity for the website by the end of the month, it would further weigh down the president’s submarining approval ratings.
A Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday showed that the president’s overall approval rating had dropped to 39 percent, with a majority of Americans — 54 percent — disapproving of the president’s handling of his job.
Perhaps more troubling for the president was that for the first time a majority of those surveyed — 52 percent — said they did not find the president honest and trustworthy. Nearly half said the president “knowingly deceived” the nation when he promised repeatedly that individuals could keep their health care plans.
Top Obama administration officials — including Park — will field questions about the technical problems at a House Oversight Committee hearing on Wednesday.
The White House had initially refused to make Park available for testimony, saying he needed to attend to fixing the issues with the website. But committee chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) issued a subpoena to compel his testimony.