ObamaCare site under scrutiny

ObamaCare enrollment still faces technical challenges as the process enters its second week, raising the stakes for the administration as they seek to build momentum for the exchanges.

Visitors to healthcare.gov experienced prolonged waits as of late Friday, though the site was substantially faster and less error-ridden than earlier in the week.

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Federal health officials have blamed the problems on heavy traffic, estimating that 8.6 million people visited the ObamaCare site this week.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said its call center had fielded 406,000 calls and that there have been 225,000 requests for online chats.

In a memo late Friday, HHS claimed "success" for week one and urged patience as technicians improve the system.

"Experts are working around the clock to make the site better able to meet the volume created by consumers’ overwhelming interest in their new health coverage options," the department stated.

"There have been sustained improvements to the consumer experience and that trend is expected to continue."

Officials announced they would take down parts of the enrollment site for scheduled maintenance during off-peak weekend hours.

The goal, according to HHS, is enhancing the site's capacity and achieving "significant improvements" by Monday.

Republican staffers quickly mocked the move on Twitter.

"Oh wow. The ObamaCare website is being taken down this weekend — for 'improvements,'" spokesman for Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerRift widens between business groups and House GOP Juan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Debt ceiling games endanger US fiscal credibility — again MORE (R-Ohio) Brendan Buck tweeted on Friday.

The maintenance effort comes after a rocky first and second day for the new health insurance marketplaces. At first, some users waited all day to enter healthcare.gov and many exited the site after receiving error messages or arriving at pages with nonsense text.

The online portal is under intense scrutiny because it was designed as the central way for the uninsured to obtain healthcare coverage under ObamaCare.

The system is complex in its structure, allowing users to determine their eligibility for federal discounts as they comparison shop for and ultimately purchase health insurance.

President Obama and his deputies predicted "glitches" in the process over the last several months but have sought to assure consumers that the system will function as planned.

This push for confidence comes amid strong criticism of the exchanges' rollout from Republican lawmakers and campaign committees.

The Republican National Committee hammered the marketplaces several days in a row, releasing a web video that juxtaposed Obama's comments with reports of problems with the exchanges.

The 79-second spot pushed Obama to delay the healthcare law's individual mandate with the reasoning that larger employers will not be required to offer health coverage until 2015.

Federal health officials are hoping to enroll millions of people in the new marketplaces during the six-month open enrollment period.

Opponents of the healthcare law are fighting these efforts with criticism of the prices available on the marketplaces.

Next week will see increased pressure for HHS to report how many people have successfully signed up for coverage. The department was not releasing those figures as of Friday.