By: MARY ELLEN SCHNEIDER, Family Practice News
The federal insurance website, HealthCare.gov, is now faster and more reliable, but more work still needs to be done, according to an assessment by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
About 80% of users are now able to complete the online application and enrollment process, meeting the goal set by the agency to get the website running smoothly for the majority of users by the end of November, Julie Bataille, director of the office of communications at CMS, said at a Dec. 1 press briefing.
CMS officials reported that they have improved the website’s response times, decreased the per-page error rate, and improved system stability and capacity. The improved performance is a “night and day” difference from how the site operated during October, according to Jeff Zients, a consultant brought in to improve the website.
Response time to user requests has been reduced from about 8 seconds in late October to 1 second on Nov. 30, Ms. Bataille reported. Similar reductions have been made to the error rate (percentage of per page system time outs and failures). In early October, the error rate was more than 6%; on Nov. 30, it was less than 1%.
Site stability also has improved, Ms. Bataille said, meaning that HealthCare.gov is “up” more than 90% of the time now – excluding scheduled maintenance – in comparison to 42.9% of the time in early November.
Federal officials said they are hopeful that the site will be able to handle a surge in users in December as the enrollment deadline approaches for consumers who want insurance coverage on Jan. 1. They have increased capacity on the site to about 50,000 simultaneous users and more than 800,000 users per day.
Mr. Zients said that, even with the improvements, the website may not have enough capacity to handle some peak user loads. As a result, CMS has put in place a queuing system that will serve users in order. The system will e-mail those users who could not get through and invite them back to the site when it’s not as busy.
Mr. Zients said that he expects consumers will continue to encounter glitches. However, the issues should be resolved much quicker now that they will have a rapid response team monitoring and responding to problems 24 hours a day.