By Kate Tummarello - 03/29/14 11:27 AM EDT
Can ObamaCare’s website handle the crush?
That’s the question that will be answered in the next few days before the March 31 enrollment deadline for the healthcare exchanges.
Some estimate as many as 500,000 people will rush to sign up for insurance in the final days of the open enrollment period.
Julie Bataille, communications director for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), said the administration is “expecting … a period of unprecedented demand.”
The lead up to Monday’s deadline will be a test of how the website has improved since last October, when the site’s technical difficulties and high traffic took it offline more than half of the time, stymieing those looking to register for the mandated health insurance plans.
Kurt DelBene, a former Microsoft executive picked to take the reins on Healthcare.gov late last year, said the administration has made upgrades to its system so that the website can handle 100,000 concurrent users.
Additionally, the website now has a “queuing” system aimed at solving the site’s traffic problems. Through that system, users who leave the site due to high traffic and technical difficulties are notified when traffic has subsided and the site is easier to use.
“We feel like we’re in a very good position to support the user demand that we anticipate for March 31.”
DelBene said that after the technical upgrades, “the site is performing well.”
“We’ve seen only minor issues, all of which have been addressed rapidly.”
The administration has a backup plan in case glitches with the site keep people from registering.
Anyone who has begun to register for insurance but experiences technical difficulties will be taken care of “as soon as possible,” Bataille said.
“We won’t close the door on those that tried to get covered and were unable to do so due to no fault of their own,” she said.
The administration has shifted the deadline for enrolling in ObamaCare, partly in case people have trouble accessing the site.
If consumers can show that they tried to start enrolling in a plan on Healthcare.gov before March 31, they will be allowed to complete their enrollment after that initial deadline.
And since the administration has said it will use the “honor system” in checking whether someone has actually tried to start a plan, that could significantly extend the read deadline for signing up for ObamaCare and avoiding a penalty that amounts to the greater of $95 or 1 percent of a person’s income.