White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters at Monday’s briefing that there was a Healthcare.gov “technical problem that the tech team is on,” but was vague about the details and heavy on the cheerleading.
The website went down just after 3 a.m. Eastern time today and was out of commission for several hours. “During times of especially high demand, you may be queued to begin your online Marketplace application to ensure the best possible shopping experience,” read an alert at the top of the site later Monday.
The Department of Health and Human Services blamed the trouble on a software bug that emerged during routine overnight site maintenance.
“There are currently 100,000 people in the system who are enrolling, and there is no problem for them to enroll. For the causes of different glitches that are being addressed, I would refer you to CMS. But as has been the case all along, when there is a problem like this, it gets addressed and addressed quickly,” Carney said.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said Sunday that its techs were on “real time monitoring of HealthCare.gov systems around the clock to ensure a smooth consumer experience.”
“Over the past week the site has handled record consumer demand well – supporting more than 8.7m visits since last Sunday, with 2 million alone this weekend. The site continues to perform well under the largest sustained period of volume to date with average response times less than 400 milliseconds and an error rate of 0.5%,” CMS said in a statement. “…In the last week the HealthCare.gov team has sent emails to millions of people and more than 65,000 text messages to consumers reminding them of the steps they need to take to complete enrollment before the March 31 deadline.”
When pressed on two stories that reporters were being told — a software glitch vs. too many people rushing to get health insurance — Carney was vague.
“And what I’m telling you is that I would refer you to the experts in terms of — because this is obviously very fast, I think they are working on it, and when they can give you an answer,” he said. “What I think what is important, because I know there has been a lot of focus on glitches, is that there has been a remarkable story since the dark days of October and November, which has resulted in a situation where here on the last day of enrollment we are looking at a number substantially larger than 6 million people enrolled.”
“And I dare say that there are a few people in this room, including some of the folks who work in the White House, who would have predicted that we would get to that number. And it is because of the remarkable persistence and hard work of the teams that fix the problems at healthcare.gov. And it is because of the determination of the American people who so clearly demonstrated the desire for quality affordable health insurance that they would not be deterred, despite the problems that the system initially presented, and which had to be fixed.”
Carney insisted that we’re now seeing “some pretty incredible things, including more than 6 million people, as I’ve said, having signed up. We saw people lining up around the block this weekend, 2.9 million visits to the website this weekend. And last week alone we saw more calls to the call centers than in all of February.”
“No one expected us to come back from the brink or to surpass the revised CBO projection that 6 million consumers would sign up in year one, but we have. And I think that merits noting in your reports,” he added.
Carney didn’t, though, have an estimated date when reporters would receive final enrollment figures.
“As you know, as was the case in December, there will be an opportunity for those who have initiated the process but are not able to finish it at midnight tonight to ensure that they get signed up for health insurance, and we will not know what that universe of people looks like until we get past the deadline tonight,” he said.
“So what I can tell you is we expect the numbers to be significant, as we have seen in this period towards the end of the open enrollment period. As we predicted all along, there would be a substantial number of people that at the very end would, when faced with the deadline, enroll. And that is what we are seeing.”