It’s been a long road for the Obama administration. But this weekend, after two months of fixing bugs on the Affordable Care Act’s HealthCare.gov insurance marketplaces website, senior officials hope to make good on a promise to have the website up and running so that people can enroll online. President Barack Obama, who sat down with ABC News’ Barbara Walters to discuss the debacle and his dismal approval rating, said that things can only get better.
"I've gone up and down pretty much consistently throughout,” Obama said of his approval rating, according to Reuters. "But the good thing about when you're down is that usually you got nowhere to go but up.”
Obama and administration officials gave themselves a deadline of November 30 to have all of the website glitches fixed. In a conference call on Tuesday, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that she expects users to get an improved experience when they visit HealthCare.gov this weekend. This comes after many consumers, who were hoping to sign up for plans when enrollment initially opened on Oct. 1, were met with delays, glitches, and crashes.
“I would urge you and your folks on the ground to not hesitate to recommend that people go to HealthCare.gov and get signed up,” said Sebelius in her call to state and local officials. “Because that experience is currently working much better and it will continue to work much better.”
So now that the deadline is upon us, here are three things you should know before heading over to HealthCare.gov to enroll:
1. You don’t have to enroll this weekend. While administration officials marked today as its self-imposed deadline to fix the website glitches, you still have at least 24 days to enroll in plans if you want coverage beginning January 1, 2014. While Sebelius believes that the site’s function has improved by leaps and bounds, the White House is still concerned that too much traffic to the site could result in delays. Feel free to take your time.
“Our concern is that we want to make sure that people have the right expectation going into this,” said Jennifer Palmieri, the White House communications director, according to The New York Times. “Early October was a frustrating experience for users. We are preparing for the outcome that we have as many or more visitors as we had on Oct. 1.”
2. HealthCare.gov was shutdown for 11 hours immediately before opening at 8 a.m. In what Reuters described as a “shaky start,” the website was taken down for maintenance last night into early this morning. This was apparently seven hours longer than the typical maintenance period. There is no word from officials on whether this was a scheduled maintenance, or a last minute effort to fix a problem plaguing the site.
3. The goal is to get as many people insured as possible. Due to website problems, Obamacare enrollment numbers fell way below what was expected. Part of the HealthCare.gov overhaul involved making sure that the site was able to handle at least 800,000 users per day, according to CNN. And, at any given point in the day, the site can handle as many as 50,000 users at once. There will also be a “queuing system” in place to prevent users from not registering if they are met with an extreme delay. The queuing system will allow users to leave the site and receive an email that will direct them to return at a time when there are fewer people using it.
For more information on the Affordable Care Act and how you can enroll, take a look at Medical Daily’s Obamacare Survival Guide.