HealthCare.gov Probably Won’t Be Fixed by the White House’s Deadline

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Photo: Pool/2013 Getty Images

It seems that even after the Edward Snowden saga, President Obama failed to develop a healthy fear of the IT guy. The latest analysis of the lead up to the HealthCare.gov fiasco reveals that Obama asked advisers to keep him up to date on tech problems, but he and other top officials kept hearing the issues were minor and were already being fixed. Politico reports, "They didn’t feel knowledgeable enough about IT issues to determine if the solution was adequate, aides said." In the past six weeks, the White House has repeatedly declared that the problems will be fixed by Nov. 30. With only seventeen days to go, it looks like, as Obama put it, he's going to be "burned" by the website yet again. 

Despite the administration's "tech surge," an official familiar with the project tells the Washington Post the software problems are so severe that it's unlikely they'll be fixed by the end of the month. While the tech team has made progress, the online marketplace still can't handle more than 20,000 to 30,000 users at a time, which is only half its intended capacity. Plus, CGI Federal, the largest contractor behind the site, has only managed to fix about 60 percent of the problems its tackled.

The Nov. 30 deadline is self-imposed and the goal is vague; White House press secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday that the website will be "functioning properly and effectively for the vast majority of Americans." However, people do need to sign up by mid-December to have coverage by January 1 (though they can still enroll through March). According to the Post, those working on the site believe that "the only way for large numbers of Americans to enroll in the health-care plans soon is by using other means so that the online system isn’t overburdened."

The White House has been promoting phone and paper applications, but those options are also plagued with problems. Many people have been told that a specialist will call back to discuss their questions, but they've yet to receive a call. Others who have tried multiple enrollment methods found that the phone representatives don't have the authority to correct mistakes in their online forms, or delete their unsuccessful applications. Insurance companies can't enroll people directly, since they need to know if the applicant qualifies for subsidies. That part of the website doesn't work either, but they're working to get it fixed in the next two weeks, maybe three – promise!