Over the weekend, federal officials finally confirmed that coding errors and other tech issues existed with Healthcare.gov, after days of saying high traffic was at issue. As people who have attempted to use the federal site know, however, problems with account creation and subsidy calculations system prevented the vast majority of users from enrolling in the first week. The Wall Street Journal places the tech issues with initial authentication and the system built to calculate insurance subsidies, both built by CGI Global, along with assorted other bugs.
In a statement, a spokesperson from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services claimed that things were getting better:
“The work done to increase access to HealthCare.gov in light of the overwhelming demand is beginning to show results. Call center wait times are seconds, not minutes, and people have been enrolling over the phone 24/7. Our work to expand the site’s capacity has led to more people successfully applying for and enrolling in affordable health coverage online, with wait times being shortened by approximately 50 percent since Friday.”
Separately, a spokesperson for the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) said that several fixes for IT issues went in while the site was down, adding dedicated servers for the registration and authentication components that were preventing the vast majority of users from creating accounts. Unfortunately, it’s not clear whether that fix alone will address other issues people are having.
Specifically, “engineers at Web-hosting company Media Temple Inc. found a glut of stray software code that served no purpose they could identify. They also said basic Web-efficiency techniques weren’t used, such as saving parts of the website that change infrequently so they can be loaded more quickly.”
To put it another way, fixing the account creation and authentication steps could well expose the next set of tech issues with the marketplace on Healthcare.gov, from calculating subsidies to enabling digital enrollment.
What’s behind the mess? Earlier today I made my first appearance on Washington Post TV, breaking down what went wrong with the launch of Healthcare.gov, from why it might have happened to what’s being done to fix it to the really big deadline for it to work, in mid-December.
More to come.
Federal officials are urging patience while engineers make more improvements to the system. To date, only a few thousand people are estimated to have made it through the tech issues to enroll, out of a reported 9 million visitors to date.