Obama official confident that Dec. 15 deadline for buying insurance can be met - LivewellNebraska.com
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Obama official confident that Dec. 15 deadline for buying insurance can be met

LINCOLN — About 700,000 Americans have completed applications for health insurance under the new health care law, despite the troubled launch of the federal website, an administration official said Thursday.

Julie Bataille, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said a completed application means that people have been able to create an account and get a determination of their eligibility for federal tax credits to offset the cost of coverage.

She declined to say how many have enrolled.

She also could not say how many had signed up through state-run websites and how many through the federal site. Nebraska and Iowa are served by the federal site.

Bataille acknowledged that HealthCare.gov has been trouble-­prone and frustrating.

“For too many people, the process has been too slow with too many errors and timeouts,” Bataille said. “We know we have a lot of work to do.”

But she expressed confidence that the problems will be corrected in time for people to meet the Dec. 15 deadline for buying insurance that takes effect Jan. 1. Open enrollment will continue until March 31.

“It is getting better every day,” she said.

Bataille pointed to three major problems with the site, as well as listing the steps being taken to resolve them:

» Volume. The number of people trying to get onto the website exceeded expectations and overwhelmed the system. More servers have been added to handle the load. Bataille said the numbers reflected pent-up demand from people wanting to get affordable health insurance.

» Time frame. The complexities of the task and the Oct. 1 deadline to launch the system did not leave enough time to do adequate testing. The tests that were done did not show how the system would respond to high numbers of users. More and better testing is being done as changes are made now.

» Shopping. The system initially lacked a way for people to window shop for insurance without creating an account. Bataille said a decision was made to focus on enrollment issues first, given the time constraints. Limited previewing is now available.

Bataille said the administration has enlisted the help of “leading innovators and problem-solvers” with experience in government and the private sector to work on fixing the site. Priority has been given to correcting the bugs in the application and enrollment process.