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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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William Powers March 31 2014 at 3:08 PM

If you are arguing that the ACA is a good thing, you are not paying attention. We had a healthcare problem in America not a Health Insurance Problem. Healthcare is unaffordable. If I can't afford healthcare how am i suppose to afford health insurance, especially since the ACA is driving up premiums, driving up deductibles to unreasonable levels, widening the gap on co-pays. I had insurance before the ACA, 10,000 dollar deductible, expensive but within my means. The only claim was an annual checkup. The insurance company just notified me that due to the ACA my premium starting in the new plan year is increasing by over $500 per year. I can't afford that. Under the ACA I don't qualify for subsidies. I am being squeezed by my Government and still over 40 million people are without Health insurance. If you are a believer you are either working for the government or a brainwashed liberal living on your parents insurance policy.

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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
Randy March 31 2014 at 3:22 PM

AOL saying the debacle of the obamacare signup systems (live, on-line, insurance brokers) "stumbled" is like saying shooting a 250 on 9 holes of golf on a nine hole par 3 course is "just a bit over par"

Flag Reply +2 rate up
daradams March 31 2014 at 5:06 PM

This is not healthcare - it is insurance.. Health care happens when you actually see a doctor.. Does that help?

Flag Reply +3 rate up
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!!!!!!!!!

Flag Reply +13 rate up
skosta March 31 2014 at 5:04 PM

They figured out what caused the LA earthquake yesterday.

It was the collective sound that was created when the jaws of millions of liberals fell, when they heard that Nate Silver predicted that republicans will retake the senate come this November.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
dtate38 March 31 2014 at 4:37 PM

Words to remember come November; "If you like your health care plan, you can keep it! If you like your doctor, you can keep them! You will save $2500! PERIOD! The words of our President and other Democrats! Remember!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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1 reply
jestindam dtate38 March 31 2014 at 6:46 PM

Words to remember, on day one the rightwing was gloating that signups were in single digits. Now 6 million plus is cooking the books. See, you did the typical republican thing, use a Frank Luntz soundbite while I expanded my reasoning. Speaks poorly of the intelligence of the public.

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hazwasted March 31 2014 at 4:37 PM

It's past 4:00pm EST and I still can't use the site. Why are they saying it was only down for a few hours. How do we get reimburse for our many hours of wasted time.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
jestindam hazwasted March 31 2014 at 7:00 PM

Maybe the problem is you and your comprehension skills. No, the problem IS you and your comprehension skills, since reporters who are always looking for a gotcha, admitted that the site problems were fixed quickly.

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jwm347 March 31 2014 at 4:33 PM

It's funny how you never read any negative comments on Huff Post. I know for a fact people are writing them but they are filtered out. I guess libs are allowed to censor what they don't like to read

Flag Reply +2 rate up
1 reply
Deborah jwm347 March 31 2014 at 4:52 PM

I guess you haven't been reading most of the comments on this article then... You are just foo funny!

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1 reply
ceecee Deborah March 31 2014 at 4:57 PM

You REALLY think Huff post puts ALL of them out there? They are a lib rag, and they are in the bag for Oblamer .

Flag 0 rate up
XYZ March 31 2014 at 4:33 PM

I DIDN'T HAVE ANY PROBLEMS WITH THE INS. I HAD
BEFORE AND I WASN'T FORC.ED TO BUY IT.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
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