Marketplace Website Has A Rocky Day As Thousands Try To Beat Enrollment Deadline

Federal officials took the healthcare.gov marketplace offline twice to deal with problems that surfaced under the heavy use.

Politico: HealthCare.gov Experiences Double Trouble On Deadline Day 
The Obamacare enrollment website, HealthCare.gov, endured renewed technical problems on Monday, creating serious obstacles for people trying to sign up before the midnight deadline and stirring up bad memories of the botched October launch. The website was down six hours early in the day, bounced back for a while, and triggered its "virtual waiting room" to handle a traffic surge. But then another problem emerged around noon; people trying to start accounts for the first time couldn’t do so. That problem, which officials said was resolved at about 1:30 p.m., created a sense of uncertainty amid a surge of interest that seemed likely to bring signups well past the 6 million mark (Kenen and Cheney, 3/31).

The New York Times: Health Website Failures Impede Signup Surge As Deadline Nears
Tens of thousands of people around the country raced to beat Monday’s deadline to sign up for health insurance, overloading phone lines and taxing the capacity of the website for the federal insurance marketplace. The last-minute scramble created a range of emotions among consumers, from happiness and satisfaction at having insurance for the first time to frustration at being unable to get answers or assistance, or affordable coverage (Pear, 3/31).

USA Today: Glitches In Race To Meet Health Deadline
Consumers who waited until the last day to enroll for insurance on the federal HealthCare.gov were out of luck on Monday morning, and the problem still may not be fixed: The tools to set up new accounts and enroll are functioning erratically and some people can't even get onto the site to try to set up an account. Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Joanne Peters said the tech team monitoring HealthCare.gov identified an issue with users creating new accounts, a problem agents were reporting earlier in the day and USA TODAY found when reporters tried to create accounts (O'Donnell, 3/31). 

The Wall Street Journal: HealthCare.gov Glitch Prevents Users From Creating New Accounts
A second software glitch took HealthCare.gov offline on Monday as the site struggled to stay open during this year's final day of enrollment under the Affordable Care Act. The new problem hit around 12 p.m. EDT and was preventing users from creating new accounts and logging in with new accounts, said a person familiar with the matter. The glitch is related to the part of the system that processes peoples' identities, the person said. A user who visits the site now and tries to log in is told "HeatlhCare.gov has a lot of visitors right now" and is put into a queue. A software bug took down the site earlier on Monday for a number of hours. Despite the two problems, the site has been very busy and was handling more than 100,000 simultaneous users at one point, the person said (Ante, 3/31).

NBCNews: Obamacare Website Freezes For A Second Time
“There is a technical problem that the tech team is on,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters. “There are currently 100,000 people on the system who are enrolling and there is no problem for them to enroll.” A spokeswoman said 1.2 million people had visited the site as of noon (Fox, 3/31).

The Hill: HealthCare.gov Struggles Under Surge Of Last-Minute Demand
While the administration said the problem was resolved quickly on Monday afternoon, it shows how the website is having trouble keeping up with the last minute rush of people seeking coverage before the March 31 deadline. ... “The tech team is working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible,” an official said as the problem persisted. “The Data Services Hub is still fully operational. Users already in system remain able to complete enrollment” (Easley, 3/31). 

The Washington Post: Healthcare.gov Stumbles Twice On Deadline Day
Both the onrush of new customers and the possibility of computer troubles had been anticipated by Obama adminsitration officials as the end of the six-month window approaches for people to buy new health plans under the Affordable Care Act, a 2010 reshaping the U.S. health care system. Mindful of a potential last-munite frenzy, health officials decided last week to let anyone ask for extra time — until a so-far unspecified time in April — if they attempt to enroll in a health plan by the deadline (Goldstein, 3/31).

Several news outlets reported on the heavy use of the website over the weekend.

The Wall Street Journal: Long Waits As Health Insurance Deadline Nears
Last-minute applicants for health insurance strained enrollment offices over the weekend, triggering long lines, extra security and hours of waiting across the country ahead of Monday's federal deadline. HealthCare.gov, the federal website, blocked some applicants late Friday but didn't show major technological problems as consumers rushed before the end of the 2014 open-enrollment period for obtaining insurance under the Affordable Care Act. But the system's human capacity maxed out, with too few "navigators" and other enrollment workers to steer consumers through the complex application process (Radnofsky and Corbett Dooren, 3/30).

The Hill: Record Volume For O-Care Exchanges
The federal health insurance marketplace saw record volume for a Saturday, and operators at the federal call centers struggled to keep up with the volume of calls as consumers flooded the ObamaCare exchanges ahead of Monday’s enrollment deadline. According to the Obama administration, HealthCare.Gov saw two million visits this weekend, while the call centers received 380,000 phone calls (Sink, 3/30).

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