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Health care website stumbles on last day

Glitch Downs HealthCare.Gov on Deadline Day

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration says a new technical problem briefly prevented last-minute users from signing up on the government's health insurance website. The new problem comes as traffic is surging on deadline day.

Health and Human Services spokesman Aaron Albright says technicians identified an issue affecting consumers trying to create new accounts.

As a result, new users couldn't access the system, but the problem was later resolved.

Albright said more than 100,000 people are using the system at the same time.

The Obama administration's health care website stumbled early Monday , falling out of service for nearly four hours on deadline day for sign-ups. After it was fixed, officials plowed ahead with a nationwide promotional drive, almost like getting out the vote on Election Day.

Early visitors to HealthCare.gov on Monday morning saw messages that the site was down for maintenance. At times the visitors were also directed to a virtual waiting room - a feature designed to ease the strain on the site during periods of heavy use.

Administration spokesman Aaron Albright said the website was brought back up shortly before 9 a.m., Eastern time. But people who missed their window sign up may still be able to take advantage of a grace period and other special extensions announced last week.

Albright said the site undergoes "regular nightly maintenance" during off-peak hours and that period was extended because of a "technical problem." He did not say what the problem was, but a statement from the Department of Health and Human Services called it "a software bug" unrelated to application volume.

Albright said consumers who left an email address would be "invited back" when the system got up and running again.

Officials said the website wasn't hacked. The site, which was receiving 1.5 million visitors a day last week, received about 1.7 million on Sunday. The federal site serves 36 states. Fourteen states and the District of Columbia are running their own sites, some of which have been crippled by technical problems.

Nonetheless, the administration and the states appear to be on track to sign-up about 6.5 million people for subsidized private health insurance through the new online markets. That's half way between a revised goal of 6 million and the original target of 7 million. The earlier goal was scaled back after the website's disastrous launch last fall, which kept it off-line during most of October.

It is unclear how many consumers who have signed up ultimately closed the deal by paying their first month's premium. Also unknown is how many were previously uninsured - the real test of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law.

Albright said Monday morning that the website is typically down for maintenance during the period from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. EDT, and that as a result of the technical problems the site was down for close to four additional hours before returning to full strength.

The sign-up website had been taken down briefly Friday, with consumer interest surging.

A recent analysis for The Associated Press by the performance-measurement firm Compuware found that the government site runs slow compared with health insurance industry peers.

With long lines reported at centers offering in-person assistance to enroll, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was leading the deadline day sign-up effort. Sebelius planned to spend much of the day Monday working out of the department's TV studio, conducting interviews by satellite with local media stations around the country.

Although March 31 was the last day officially to sign up, millions of people were potentially eligible for extensions granted by the administration for various reasons.

That includes consumers who had begun enrolling by the deadline but didn't finish, perhaps because of errors, missing information or website glitches. The government says it will accept paper applications until April 7 and take as much time as necessary to handle unfinished cases on HealthCare.gov. Rules may vary in states running their own insurance marketplaces.

The administration is also offering special extensions to make up for all sorts of problems that might have kept people from getting enrolled on time: Natural disasters. Domestic abuse. Website malfunctions. Errors by insurance companies. Mistakes by application counselors.

To seek a special enrollment period, contact the federal call center, at 1-855-889-4325, or the state marketplace and explain what happened. It's on the honor system. If the extension is approved, that brings another 60 days to enroll.

Join the discussion

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jwosr98 March 31 2014 at 3:10 PM

Just like everything other half assed thing this administration has done.

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1 reply
arnie jwosr98 March 31 2014 at 3:37 PM


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reelriot85 March 31 2014 at 3:25 PM

OMG.....What a suprise!!!!!! The ObamaCare website went down??? Again??? And it worked so well for a few seconds. Come on 2016!!!!!!!!!

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bmycadi March 31 2014 at 5:45 PM

Covered CA Site is not working either! 3-31-14 2:30 PST!

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wongtpa March 31 2014 at 5:43 PM

Those who enrolled will not pay a premium and if you know insurance, this is sure to fail. Insurance is based on many paying for the few ill policy holders. Obamacare is many sick not paying and no healthy policy holders involved. Speaks volumes on the impending failure. Obama will blame someone other than himself. Such a fraud!

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aljoramaggio March 31 2014 at 5:39 PM

At present, there is a major problem associated with some of the lower end of these Obamacare plans, that the government is either not telling people, or has it so deeply imbedded in the fine print, that they hope most will overlook it.
Yes, people are getting insuance, but only insurance - not "healthcare."
You see, many of the cheaper plans are not considered "in network" with many of the top-tier hospitals.
So one might sign up for a plan, knowing that their individual health care provider participates in it, and possibly their local community hospital also does, but not the specialized hospitals in the major metropolitan areas.
When something is seriously wrong, and one needs to go to a tertiary care facility for treatment, many will be utterly shocked to find out that the highly specialized hospital doe not participate, and therefore, all bills will have to be paid, at out of network rates, which can be extraordinarily expensive.
Before purchasing any insurance, it is wise to know exactly which hospitals participate in that particular insurance coverage and plan - that goes for both Obamacare and privately obtained health insurance.

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1 reply
millcreekpal aljoramaggio March 31 2014 at 5:48 PM

what do you expect ? of course there are going to be restrictions there are with ANY health care plan!

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1 reply
aljoramaggio millcreekpal March 31 2014 at 5:58 PM

Of course, but what good is any insurance plan, if it does not cover you adequately for catestrophic injury or illness?
People need to read the fine print, and contact the major hospital websites, to find out if they participate in their particular plan.
They might be very surprised, to find out just how many hospitals do not even participate in any of the platinum, gold silver or bronze plans that Obamacare is offering.
Just last month, I checked out all of the tertiary care hospitals in the major NY/NJ metropolitan area, within a 50 mile radius of Manhattan. You'd be surprised to learn how very few are "in network".

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gwatts54 March 31 2014 at 3:32 PM

lying politicians....I have been trying to access the site since late this morning. For 1 hour it would not let me create an account and then once I did it said the site was too busy and it would send me an e-mail when there were less people on. Then when I got on it said it shows an application for me, but will not let me access it after many times trying, then the site told me to log off and come back on. Now it will not let me have access to log in, because it is still too busy. This site has sucked from the beginning.

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1 reply
Sal gwatts54 March 31 2014 at 3:54 PM

Yes, and the hackers can't wait until you finish keying in your personal information...they're woking on it for you.

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Desi March 31 2014 at 3:33 PM

Still waiting on them to verify my identity. Been waiting for a month. :/

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2 replies
thingsrachanging Desi March 31 2014 at 3:40 PM

The NSA knows who you are, where you live, who you slept with and your religious affiliation. But they do not know how to fix the ACA website.


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Sal Desi March 31 2014 at 3:52 PM

The Computer hackers have your identity now...Obamacare lost it. Good Luck getting it back.

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buddyboygabe March 31 2014 at 5:33 PM

odd, Democrat' Senate Leader H. Reid, said, "American people are NOT smarts enough" to go into this website. Blaming to the people instead of this botched and wasted tax payers dollars (~$Billions) on this Pc program.

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2 replies
seabasskj buddyboygabe March 31 2014 at 5:38 PM

Well, evidently there are enough stupid people to keep putting him back in office, so he actually has some proof for his statement.

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AMedicGary buddyboygabe March 31 2014 at 5:39 PM

....... don't you mean pos program?

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Sal March 31 2014 at 3:37 PM

Exactly how many of the 30 MILLION un-insured prior to Obamacare have signed up and PAID for this joke? - (for you liberals...the past historical growth in medicaid signees don't count)

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gidget6368 March 31 2014 at 5:19 PM

I have one question, how come the Healthcare Law says it does not cover illegals and yets illegals are signing up and going on states Medicaid. This Administration doesn't follow their own Laws. We should just send Congress home and not hold any more elections, because they all seem to be meaningless. WHat part of the word ILLEGAL doesn't the Government understand. Illegal is Illegal no matter how you slice it, and not to be elegible to any benefits as an illegal. You want Benefits, register, get a job, learn English and in years you may, just may make it providing you follow the laws. This is why California and other states are in trouble, illegals are taking them to the cleaners.

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3 replies
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