Teams of technicians are tackling the problems that have frustrated consumers trying for weeks to access the federally-run Health Insurance Marketplace at healthcare.gov, according to Friday's daily operational update from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency overseeing the web site's operations.
On Friday afternoon, management expert Jeff Zients, who has been appointed “Tech Czar” inthe effort to fix the problems with healthcare.gov, told reporters on a conference call that he has established four dedicated teams to address software
and infrastructure “issues” with the site:
An application and software team to address "glitches" so the
site works faster and smoother for users;
An infrastructure and hardware team focused on adding
capacity and redundancy to minimize disruptions;
A security team to ensure protection of the
system and its data;
And a monitoring and troubleshooting team to analyze system performance and spot problems early.
“With these teams in place we have the right management
structure and accountability to make the necessary progress,’’ said Zients, who
stood by the “late November” target date to have healthcare.gov working smoothly.
Zients said efforts to improve the site have been prioritized with a "punch list" of items, but that progress was hindered this week by "hardware problems" at a Verizon data center that hosts healthcare.gov.
"The hardware failure was a set back and was
extremely frustrating,'' Zients said, but added that healthcare.gov "works better today for users than it did a week
Among the site improvements that Zients emphasized was a faster response time for users, who were waiting an average of eight seconds for pages to load over the last few weeks, he said.
"Yesterday,'' he said, "the average response time on the
site appears to be less than 1,000 milliseconds.''
Another important recent improvement, Zients noted, was "a batch of fixes" made Thursday night that among other things "begin to address insurer concerns around the
834 notices are data that the marketplace sends to private insurers informing them of enrollment numbers for their plans and details about the individuals who selected the plans.
Insurers have said that these notices had a high error rate, which further slowed the enrollment process for individuals.
Though Zients said that consumers continue to use the site everyday to shop and enroll in health plans, CMS press director Julie Bataille, who also joined the conference call, declined to give an update on the number of individuals who have applied and enrolled for coverage.
Bataille cited the same number she gave last week for the total number of applications for health insurance received through the federally-run marketplace and the 16 state-based marketplaces: 700,000 individuals.
However, Bataille said she still did not have the details about how many of those applicants were referred to Medicaid, the state-federal health program for the poor, and how many of those applicants purchased a plan.
Bataille said CMS expects to provide an update on the actual numbers of consumers who have applied for and enrolled in plans by "mid-November.''
She also put the cost of "overal IT (information technology)" related to healthcare.gov at $630 million, which includes the cost of hiring "dozens of contractors."
Said Zients: "The site will be get better week by week, and by the end of November the site will work smoothly for the vast majority of users.''