Healthcare Business News still struggling as Nov. 30 deadline nears

By Joseph Conn
Posted: November 25, 2013 - 3:15 pm ET

The troubled Web portal is still stumbling.

The website's application and enrollment tool went down for about an hour this morning in an “unexpected outage” and inflicted bouts of “latency or slowness” on users over the weekend, although the site was “never unavailable,” according to Julie Bataille, director of the office of communications at the CMS.

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The glitches came as developers worked on the site over the weekend, adding storage capacity and making upgrades, “focused on enhancing user experience, improving enrollment and streamlining workflow” for insurance agents and brokers, Bataille said.

The federal “call center,” where enrollees can find human assistance in signing up for health insurance under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, will be closed from midnight to midnight on Thanksgiving Day, but the technical “surge team” that has been working on the troubled site since mid-October “will continue to work 24/7” over the holidays, she said.

Bataille reiterated what's become a CMS mantra that come Nov. 30, the site will function smoothly for the “vast majority” of users. Bataille also repeated a previously announced target that the site will be able to handle 800,000 users per day. That usage level is likely to be exceeded, however, Bataille said, and as a consequence, “we expect to see intermittent period where the system is slow, or not responsive.” The system also is being equipped with an enhanced “queuing” capacity to handle users during overload periods, including the ability track users who leave due to slowness and send them an e-mail later when the system is less burdened, she said.

Bataille also said the site developers are “making progress” on improving the handling of ASC X 12 834 standard for electronic enrollment messages between the federal site and health insurers, one of several high-profile problem areas previously identified with the site, which opened Oct. 1 and has faltered ever since.

Follow Joseph Conn on Twitter: @MHJConn

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