Administration Gives Positive Progress Report On Health Care Website Fixes

Obama administration officials announced Sunday morning that they had met their deadline in terms of making improvements to healthcare.gov.

The Washington Post: HealthCare.gov Meets Deadline For Fixes, White House Says
Administration officials announced Sunday that they had met their Saturday deadline for improving HealthCare.gov after completing a series of hardware upgrades and software fixes to the troubled Web site. A progress report released Sunday morning by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said: "While we strive to innovate and improve our outreach and systems for reaching consumers, we believe we have met the goal of having a system that will work smoothly for the vast majority of users" (Sun, 12/1).

The New York Times: Obama Administration Says Health Care Web Site Is Vastly Improved
In effect, the administration gave itself a passing grade. Because of hundreds of software fixes and hardware upgrades in the past month, it said, the website — the main channel for people seeking to buy insurance under President Obama’s health care law — is now working more than 90 percent of the time, up from 40 percent during some weeks in October. ... Much of the progress in the past five weeks resulted from radical changes in the management of HealthCare.gov, according to the report. Technology experts concluded in mid-October that "HealthCare.gov was fixable, but only with significant changes to the management approach and a relentless focus on execution," it said (Pear, 12/1).

The Wall Street Journal: White House Claims 'Dramatic Progress' On Health Site
While tech staff has managed to improve the site, it remains unclear if it will be enough to fix the troubled rollout of President Obama's health law. Millions of Americans have received notices their current policies will be cancelled because they don't comply with the new law. Several states have declined to go along with a plan proposed by Mr. Obama to allow them to keep the policies for another year. Enrollment in new health plans has increased since October, when just 106,185 Americans signed up. But the website problems and delayed marketing plans could make it difficult for administration officials to meet their goal of 7 million people enrolled in private health plans by the end of March. Also unclear is whether the site can cope with user traffic (Schatz, 12/1).

Reuters: Obama Administration Declares Victory On Fixing HealthCare.gov
The new performance levels mark significant improvement after the Obamacare website's disastrous October 1 launch, when it crashed in the face of high traffic volumes and remained down 60 percent of the time for weeks. But officials remain concerned about high volumes this month, with the potential for large numbers of people entering the site to apply for insurance coverage beginning January 1 (Morgan, 12/1).

Los Angeles Times: HealthCare.gov Website Working For Most Users, Officials Say
Web pages on the site now load in less than a second, down from eight seconds in late October. The system now operates more than 90% of the time. For some weeks in October, the site was up for only 40% of the time. And the average rate of time-outs or other Web-page failures on the site has dropped to around three-quarters of a percent. It was as high as 6% in October (Levey, 12/1).

USA Today: White House Announces HealthCare.gov Met Repair Goals
"The bottom line is health care.gov on December first is night and day from where it was October first," said Jeffrey Zients, the president's appointee to fix the website's problems. "The site is now stable and operating at its intended capacity at greatly improved performance." When the site — which allows people to compare private plan benefits and costs before buying an insurance policy — launched Oct. 1, millions of people were disappointed by slow or frozen pages, an inability to log in, and incorrect or missing information. The White House tapped Zients to lead a team to fix the site (Kennedy, 12/1).

NBC News: HealthCare.gov 'Night And Day' From October, Feds Say
Two months after its disastrous launch, HealthCare.gov is much better, working more than 90 percent of the time and up to the promised capacity of 50,000 users at any given time, government officials said Sunday. But it’s not at 100 percent yet, with the final steps of enrollment still glitchy. While the site looks better to consumers, the final steps of signing up with an insurer and making sure a policy is paid for are still a work in progress, officials said (Fox, 12/1).

Politico: W.H.: Obamacare Ste Now Works For Vast 'Majority'
The enrollment period is supposed to run through March 31, but people who want coverage by Jan. 1 - including several million distraught people whose current health plans have been cancelled — have until Dec. 23 to sign up. The administration wants to get people enrolled and get Obamacare on track after weeks of damaging headlines and witheringcriticism even from key allies. "While there is more work to be done, the team is operating with private sector velocity and effectiveness, and will continue their work to improve and enhance the website in the weeks and months ahead," the administration wrote in a report outlining its success. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says it has repaired more than 400 items on its "punch list" of bugs and fixes. The agency also said it reduced response times from 8 seconds in late October to less than 1 second and error rates are under 1 percent (Haberkorn and Norman, 12/1).

Reaction on the Sunday morning news programs was swift -

NBC News: Republican Voices Concern About Data Security On Obamacare Website
As the Obamacare administration claimed new success in getting its health care enrollment web site running, Republican opponents of the Affordable Care Act renewed their criticism Sunday. "The most important part of this discussion that nobody talks about," Rep. Mike Rogers, R- Mich., said on NBC’s Meet the Press, is that "the security of this site" and its ability to safeguard health and income information "does not meet even the minimal standards of the private sector" (Curry, 12/1).

Reuters: Obama Administration Says Achieves Key Goal Of Fixing HealthCare.gov
Republican critics of the healthcare reform law known as Obamacare were quick to dismiss the administration's achievement as overstated. "Have they made some progress? Yes. They brought in some private sector folks to try to get the functionality up. It still doesn't function right," Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan said on NBC's "Meet the Press" program. Democrats, who face a tough congressional midterm election battle in 2014 that could be complicated by Obamacare's rocky rollout, sounded a cautious note. Some nervous party members have called for a delay of the law's individual mandate that requires people to be enrolled in coverage by March 31 or pay a penalty. "This is going to take some time before it's up and kicking and in full gear," Democratic Representative Chris Van Hollen said on "Meet the Press" (Morgan and Krauskopf, 12/1).

Politico: Plouffe: 'People Trust The President'
Former Senior White House Adviser David Plouffe on Sunday said he believes President Barack Obama's "numbers will recover" and that people "trust this president." "It's been a tough patch," Plouffe said on ABC’s "This Week." "And it’s not just healthcare, you know, the shutdown affected everybody, confidence in government." ... But let’s fast forward to the State of the Union and the months after that: But Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), also on the "This Week" panel, said the problems with Obamacare will continue to damage the president and his administration. "The first impression here was terrible, and I think it will be an unfolding disaster for the president," he said. "This thing is going to be an unmitigated political disaster for the president." Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), meanwhile, said he was more optimistic about the health care law. "This website is technology," he said. "It's going to get better. It's already better today" (Weinger, 12/1).

The Hill: Obama Can 'Right This Ship,' Dean Says
Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D) on Sunday said that President Obama would have a second shot to make a first impression with his healthcare reform legacy. "I think the president can right this ship," he told Candy Crowley on CNN's "State of the Union." The Obama administration had promised a more functioning HealthCare.gov website by Dec. 1 in hopes of making up for the botched introduction only two months prior(Wilson, 12/1). 

Politico: Dean, Santorum Debate Obama's 'Competence'
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean on Sunday debated President Barack Obama’s competence in the wake of the Obamacare rollout. Santorum, a Republican, told CNN’s "State of the Union" that the problems surrounding Obamacare bring up one question: "Is the president competent to do his job?" ... Santorum noted that people are now feeling doubt about a number of the president's other policies, along with healthcare. ... Dean, a Democrat, pushed back against Santorum's question of Obama's competence (Weinger, 12/1).

The Associated Press: Officials: Worst Tech Bugs Over For Healthcare.gov
Politically, a fixed website could also offer a fresh start for President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats after a wave of bad publicity surrounding the president’s chief domestic achievement."“This website is technology. It’s going to get better. It’s already better today," said Rep. Keith Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat who is a co-chairman of the liberal Congressional Progressive Caucus. "And we’re only going to be working out more kinks as we go forward" ... Questions remain about the stability of the site and the quality of the data it delivers to insurers. "The security of this site and the private information does not meet even the minimal standards of the private sector, and that concerns me," said Rep. Mike Rogers, the Michigan Republican who leads the House intelligence panel. "I don’t care if you’re for it or against it, Republican or Democrat, we should not tolerate the sheer level of incompetence securing this site" (12/1).

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