Nearly two months ago, Healthcare.gov, the US government's online marketplace designed to allow Americans to purchase health insurance plans under President Obama's hard-fought reform law, launched to great expectations — only to promptly and spectacularly disappoint. Initial users reported extremely slow load times, cryptic errors that blocked them from even creating accounts whatsoever, and a host of other glitches that rendered the website useless to many. In fact, government officials later revealed that only six Americans actually managed to sign up for health insurance on the website's torrid first day.
Now, after weeks of harsh criticism from lawmakers in both major parties, lengthy investigative hearings meant to find who screwed up, and repeated apologies from leaders including the president himself, Healthcare.gov is ready to try again: Today, November 30th marks the deadline for fixing the website "for the vast majority of users," set by Jeffrey Zients, the man put in charge of the repair group. That "vast majority" was later refined to "80 percent" by the White House. Heading into the weekend, Zients and other White House officials said they were on schedule to meet the deadline. "We are confident that we’re on track to achieve our goal to make HealthCare.gov operate smoothly for the vast majority of users by the end of the month," Zients told Politico today, reporting that his team had fixed over 300 software bugs.
"We are confident that we’re on track to achieve our goal."
A spokesperson for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency in charge of the website, offered Fox News a similarly optimistic perspective, saying that the website was "on track" after "scheduled upgrades last night and tonight." And yet, as the clock neared December 1st, work on the website was still furiously under way. The portion of the website allowing users to sign up for insurance online (rather than directing them to phone operators) was taken offline from 1 am to 5 am EST Saturday to "make improvements", according to a note posted on the site. "Additional down times may be possible as we work to make things better," the note read.
And as the White House prepared to hold a formal announcement Sunday about the website's repairs, it appeared that some "internal" work still wouldn't be ready in time, according to unnamed officials cited by The Washington Post. Zients himself sounded a note of caution, telling Politico his group would "continue to find glitches and bugs," but that there were "rapid response teams" in place ready to fix them. For the sake of those looking to purchase health insurance, and President Obama's reputation, the stakes for December 1st couldn't be higher.