Despite Smoother Functionality, HealthCare.gov Faces Minor Glitches
November 17, 2014 in News
HealthCare.gov during the first few days of the Affordable Care Act’s second open enrollment period operated smoother than last year, but some users have reported minor technical issues, the New York Times reports.
The second open enrollment period began Saturday and ends on Feb. 15 (Pear/Goodnough, New York Times, 11/15). As HealthCare.gov transitioned to prepare for the new round of signups, some of the site’s functions were shut down Friday night, preventing consumers from updating or starting new 2014 applications during the transition window. However, users were still able to view 2015 plans and premiums (Alonso-Zaldivar, AP/U-T San Diego, 11/14).
By the end of the first day of enrollment, about 100,000 U.S. residents submitted applications for coverage through HealthCare.gov, according to HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the Washington Post‘s “Post Politics” reports (Zezima, “Post Politics,” Washington Post, 11/16).
Details of Technical Problems
According to NPR’s “The Two-Way,” HealthCare.gov is functioning at a faster pace than it did last year, and the site has a new system for better detecting site traffic overloads (Sanders, “The Two-Way,” NPR, 11/16).
However, some consumers experienced issues:
- Logging into their accounts;
- Remembering their usernames;
- Retrieving or resetting their passwords; and
- Verifying their identity via the identity proofing process (New York Times, 11/15).
According to HHS, “Many returning consumers had not reset their passwords from earlier this year when all consumers needed to reset” and that “[a] common mistake people are making is using their email address as their login when they may have started their account with a username instead.”
HHS added, “There have also been some cases in which consumers did not have their passwords restored because of simple miscommunication,” such as call enter employees inaccurately transcribing the email addresses of consumers seeking to retrieve or reset their passwords (New York Times, 11/16).
According to the Times, some consumers at enrollment events held across the U.S. were able to complete their coverage applications in about 30 minutes. However, the snags caused some applications to take around 90 minutes or led individuals to leave the events with plans to complete their in-person enrollment attempts at a later date (New York Times, 11/15).
Meanwhile, some stakeholders noted that the federal exchange could face future challenges, including spikes in traffic near the Dec. 15 deadline for existing exchange plan enrollees to make changes to their coverage prior to 2015 and the Feb. 15 end of open enrollment.
In addition, insurers have expressed concerns about not being notified when consumers switch to other insurance plans, which might result in some individuals being billed for two health plans in 2015, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Some State-Run Exchanges Experience IT Issues
Further, some state-run exchanges reported several technological problems that occasionally stalled enrollment, the Journal reports (Armour et al., Wall Street Journal, 11/16).
Washington state officials on Saturday took down the state-run exchange website shortly after its launch after finding that the site was incorrectly calculating consumers’ insurance subsidies (New York Times, 11/15).
Officials restored the site by Sunday morning and planned to reach out to the hundreds of state residents who received incorrect calculations to provide them with accurate subsidy information, according to the Journal.
Meanwhile, Lawrence Miller, director of Vermont’s health reform implementation efforts, said while the state’s exchange site had some initial technical problems, they were fixed on Saturday.
In addition, California’s state-run exchange, called Covered California, experienced issues that prevented consumers using the site from shopping for new plans or choosing coverage options for more than an hour prior to being fixed.
Covered California spokesperson Amy Palmer said, “We have no reason to believe website problems were interfering with enrollment for the vast majority of our consumers. There were some bumps and we worked to repair those” (Wall Street Journal, 11/16).
Rep. Black Calls for Strengthened Cybersecurity
In a Wall Street Journal opinion piece, Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) writes that although HealthCare.gov might be operating more smoothly, the site is still troubled by a lack of security.
Black notes that despite warnings from the HHS Office of Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office, the federal exchange website has been breached several times leading up to the launch of the second enrollment period. She writes that “continued red flags suggest that the website is still vulnerable,” adding that “HHS has no legal obligation to tell Americans if their personal information has been breached.”
She writes that the House passed the Health Exchange Security and Transparency Act to address such vulnerabilities and lack of accountability. The legislation “would require the federal government to notify someone if their personal information has been breached or hacked on HealthCare.gov,” she writes. However it has been stalled in the Senate, Black notes.
Black said the Senate should act now, but she expressed hope that the soon-to-be GOP-controlled Senate would act faster (Black, Wall Street Journal, 11/14).