HHS, Obama Announce Fixes to Healthcare.gov Website

Acknowledging continuing problems with the healthcare.gov website which is the gateway for individuals and small businesses to sign up for health insurance under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) (P.L. 111-148), President Obama said October 21 that “nobody’s madder than me that the website isn’t working as well as it should which means it’s going to get fixed.” Over the weekend, HHS released statements on various blogs noting what improvements have been made to the website.

Numerous complaints have been publicized in the first two weeks of the web site’s operation, from being unable to access the site, to being unable to create an account, or, after creating an account, being unable to actually access the site again to pick a plan and enroll.

Website Improvements

HHS announced a “tech surge” to put in place “tools and processes to aggressively monitor and identify parts of healthcare.gov where individuals are encountering errors or having difficulty using the site, so we can prioritize and fix them.” Fixes will be deployed during off-peak hours on a regular basis, according to HHS.

One blog post noted that applicants have four ways to apply for coverage – by phone, online, by mail with a paper application, or with in-person assistance. The website also includes an option where individuals can review plans in a given area without filling out an online application.

In his speech, Obama noted that “It usually takes about 25 minutes for an individual to apply for coverage and 45 minutes for a family.” The White House also noted that the “data hub” component, which provides HealthCare.gov with information that aids in determining eligibility for qualified health plans, is working.

Enrollment Numbers?

HHS has not yet released any official numbers on how many people have actually enrolled in a health insurance plan since October 1. According to an analysis by Millward Brown Digital; Compete Panel, 46 percent of visitors attempting to register on Healthcare.gov during week 2 were successful, up from 27 percent in week 1. Eligibility application starts rose 88 percent to 368,000, and total completed applications rose 31 percent to 47,000.

House Investigation

Members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce sent a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on October 17 asking her to make an appearance before the committee on October 24 “to answer questions regarding implementation of the exchanges.” At press time, neither Sebelius nor anyone else from HHS had agreed to attend the hearing.