Healthcare.gov Is Sort of Fixed, As Long As Everybody Doesn’t Sign On at Once

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Photo: Paul Sancya

After the dazzling failure of healthcare.gov, the White House promised the site would be working for the "vast majority of Americans" by Nov. 30. Many reports have suggested that the administration would be humiliated further when it missed its own deadline, but it appears the site it going to be up and running by Saturday ... for most people ... as long as everybody doesn't try to check it out at the same time. The site can now handle 50,000 users at once, which will allow millions of people enroll through March 31. However, officials tell the New York Times they're worried that as many as 250,000 people will try out the newly "fixed" healthcare.gov over the holiday weekend, crashing the site once again.

President Obama said last week that his administration would have to "remarket and rebrand" after Nov. 30, but there won't be another big marketing campaign, for now at least. At a meeting on Monday, Jennifer Palmieri, the White House communications director, told organizations such as Enroll America that they should hold off on promoting the site for a few days. "Our recommendation is that we expect there to be really high traffic," she said. "You shouldn’t be driving traffic." Similarly, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius didn't offer up a resounding "open for business" declaration during a conference call with state and local officials on Tuesday. "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," she said.

There will almost certainly be times when more than 50,000 people try to access the website, and to ease people's frustration the site now has what officials call a "waiting room." At particularly busy times, people will have the option of asking the government to e-mail them when the site is less busy, at which point they can skip to the front of the line.

Administration officials said that in December they'll mainly be focused on enrolling people whose insurance policies were canceled and those who tried to sign up in the past few weeks but weren't able to complete their applications. Since it appears the White House isn't planning to "remarket and rebrand" anytime soon, Democratic senators intend to promote the law's successes themselves. According to the Washington Post, before they headed home for Thanksgiving, the Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Committee sent a memo to lawmakers urging them to find some success stories when they're back in their home states. They're asked to plug positive stories on their websites and on social media to provide "the ammunition we need to rebut Republican claims that the law isn’t working." Apparently they actually need just the right amount of ammunition, or the whole effort will blow up in their faces.