Like Government, Obamacare Website Shuts Down in Disrepair

Image: Like Government, Obamacare Website Shuts Down in Disrepair

Saturday, 05 Oct 2013 12:16 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Like the government, the Obamacare website will shut down this weekend.

There are still many kinks in the Obamacare rollout, but they're being obscured by the government shutdown, giving the Obama administration some extra time to work out the problems.

The government's website has been flooded with 8.6 million visitors, officials said Friday, while declining to say how many people were able to enroll in health insurance plans, reports The New York Times.

Urgent: Do You Support Sen. Ted Cruz's Efforts to Defund Obamacare? Vote Here.

However, the site locks up when visitors reach the point in which they can see possible plans, and technicians this weekend will work on a section of the website where people apply for coverage, taking it down so they can upgrade its capabilities.

In an interview with The Associated Press, President Obama asked Americans for patience after technological glitches have made it difficult for millions of Americans to access the website.

“The website got overwhelmed by volume,” he said of the higher than expected interest in the program. “The insurance doesn’t start until January. So they’ll have plenty of time.”

House Speaker John Boehner on Friday slammed the plans to disable the enrollment site for maintenance, reports The Hill, saying the work shows major flaws with Obamacare.

"The news that [the] enrollment system is already going offline confirms that the launch of the president’s healthcare law has been an unmitigated disaster," Boehner said in a statement Friday. "How can this administration tax individuals for not purchasing a product from a website that doesn’t even work?"

"Americans have seen once again that Obamacare is not ready for prime time," Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, the No. 2 House Republican, said in a statement. "A dysfunctional website is the least of that law's problems."

Even insurance agents say they're having difficulty using the troubled website and get information to their customers.

"I am president of the National Association of Health Underwriters, and I could not get on the Web site," Thomas M. Harte, a New Hampshire insurance broker told The Times."I have tried more than a dozen times, in the middle of the day and the middle of the night."

Other users complained they could not create online accounts they needed to see the health plans available.

“The president calls these glitches, a nice poll-tested, fairly benign-sounding word,” said Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn. "But these were systemic failures of the Obamacare exchanges — obviously, not ready for prime time."

Democrats, though, say the problems are being caused by the high number of site visitors, showing there is a large public demand for affordable insurance plans.

Enrollments picked up on Friday, despite problems.

"We are pleased that enrollment for health care coverage through the new marketplaces is picking up," the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association said in a statement. "We expect enrollment to continue to increase."

The so-called Blues are major players in the individual insurance market, but some smaller insurers have yet to see any new customers, The Associated Press reports.

By Monday, "there will be significant improvements in the online consumer experience," the administration said on Friday.

But tech experts say that the website has problems beyond just simple traffic overages, reports The Washington Post, even though Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius asked Americans to "give us the same slack you give Apple."

Urgent: Do You Support Sen. Ted Cruz's Efforts to Defund Obamacare? Vote Here.

But the site doesn't even basically work, The Post said, and as a result, the Apple comparison -- one also used by President Barack Obama -- doesn't hold.

The site's online traffic crush is indeed behind some of the site's failures, but that is a planning flaw, reports The Post's "Wonkblog," saying that "the Obama administration badly underestimated the level of interest."

Designers complain the site is badly coded and as a result, visitors can't get through. In addition, the site's instructions are confusing, and the site crashes a few screens in.

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