Dems urge Price to change ObamaCare site shutdown planned during open enrollment

Dems urge Price to change ObamaCare site shutdown planned during open enrollment

A group of nearly 80 Democratic House members is calling on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to shorten the 12 hourlong maintenance shutdowns of the federal ObamaCare exchange website that are planned during the next open enrollment period. 

HHS officials announced last week that the website will be shut down for maintenance for 12 hours from midnight to noon almost every Sunday of the next ObamaCare enrollment period, which lasts from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15, as well as overnight on the first day of the enrollment period.

One Sunday, Dec. 10, won’t see a shutdown.

Seventy-eight Democratic representatives, led by Reps. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), signed a letter, addressed to HHS Secretary Tom PriceThomas (Tom) Edmunds PricePoll: Majority in some GOP districts say Republicans 'more corrupt' than Dems Five GOP lawmakers mulling bid to lead conservative caucus Overnight Health Care: Watchdog finds Tom Price improperly used funds on flights | Ex-Novartis CEO sent drug pricing proposal to Cohen | HHS staffers depart after controversial social media posts MORE, calling the planned maintenance "incredibly concerning."

In the letter, the lawmakers ask that either the 12-hour shutdowns be shortened or that the enrollment period be extended to make up for lost enrollment time.

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"On behalf of the millions of Americans who will have more difficulty or will not be able to sign up for and access health insurance coverage because of the many decisions made by HHS and President Trump, we ask that you take the simple step of tailoring website maintenance to shorter durations during times with low traffic or compensating for the lost hours due to maintenance by adding time to the end of the open enrollment period," the Democratic members wrote. 

The announcement prompted backlash from various ObamaCare supporters, who said they feared the site would prevent individuals from signing up for insurance. 

"I could see this really impacting the ability of people to complete an application sign-up in a single sitting, which is so important," Jason Stevenson, of the Utah Health Policy project, told CNN.

A spokesperson for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services downplayed the impact of the shutdowns, saying they were planned ahead of time, and are not likely to affect a lot of people. 

"Maintenance outages are regularly scheduled on HealthCare.gov every year during open enrollment. This year is no different,” the spokesperson said. “The maintenance schedule was provided in advance this year in order to accommodate requests from certified application assistors.

“System downtime is planned for the lowest-traffic time periods on HealthCare.gov including Sunday evenings and overnight.”