'Best and brightest' called in to fix website

The Obama administration claims that it is working night and day to fix problems in an ObamaCare website that had a rocky rollout this month.

In a blog post on Sunday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) claimed that it has called in "some of the best and brightest" to help to fix the technical complications.


ADVERTISEMENT
“Since launch, when we first recognized these issues, we have been working around the clock to make improvements,” the department wrote.


The website, which is supposed to help people shopping for health insurance on new marketplaces called exchanges, has been plagued from the start.

When it was first unveiled at the beginning of October, many people were unable to register or log on to shop for coverage. Early speculation was that only a handful of consumers had been able to successfully buy insurance.

The Obama administration has said that the early glitches were partly a sign of the overwhelming interest in the site. They have compared the bumpy rollout to the introduction of new tech products, which tend to have initial problems before the bugs are worked out.

According to HHS, the site has logged more than 19 million unique visits.

The administration maintained on Sunday that its efforts to fix the website were paying off.

“We have updated the site several times with new code that includes bug fixes that have greatly improved the HealthCare.gov experience,” it said. “Today, more and more individuals are successfully creating accounts, logging in, and moving on to apply for coverage and shop for plans. We're proud of these quick improvements, but we know there's still more work to be done.”

The department said that some fixes, such as a temporary virtual “waiting room” meant to deal with the surge in traffic, were ultimately more confusing than the problems themselves.

“We will continue to conduct regular maintenance nearly every night to improve the experience,” it wrote.

Late on Saturday, the administration announced that 476,000 people had applied for insurance through the site. However, HHS did not announce how many of those people had successfully been enrolled.

The early problems with the website’s rollout were partially buried by the 16-day government shutdown and crisis about lifting the nation’s debt ceiling.

The glitches, however, have increased the pressure on HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Lawmakers including Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) have called for her to resign.

This week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is holding a hearing on failures in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, but Sebelius declined to testify.

Republican opponents of the law have said that the troubled rollout was symptomatic of larger problems with the legislation.

“This is a very mechanical thing,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said on “Fox News Sunday.” “The most expensive website and it doesn’t work.”

“When you can’t even put together the package to sign up, that shows how big a job it is for the federal government to manage 16 percent of the economy and people’s health insurance plans. It’s not where the federal government should be,” he added.