Data center glitch is latest problem in 'Obamacare' rollout


By Sharon Begley and David Morgan

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON, Oct 27 (Reuters) - A data centercritical for allowing uninsured Americans to buy health coverageunder President Barack Obama's healthcare law went down onSunday, the U.S. government said, in the latest problem for the"Obamacare" rollout.

Verizon's Terremark operates the data center behind afederal system for determining eligibility for governmentsubsidies to buy insurance nationwide and hosts,the website that makes insurance available in 36 of the 50states.

The data center experienced a failure on Sunday that led itto lose network connectivity, Health and Human ServicesDepartment spokeswoman Joanne Peters said.

Online insurance exchanges opened on Oct. 1 under the law tooffer health insurance plans to millions of uninsured Americans.But it has been marred by technical glitches and delays aswould-be customers encounter error messages and long waits,often failing to make it through the system despite repeatedtries.

"We are working with Terremark to get their timeline foraddressing the issue," Peters said in an email. "We understandthat this issue is affecting other customers in addition, and Terremark is working (to) resolve the issueas quickly as possible."

Peters said the newest glitch also affected a data serviceshub - an electronic traffic roundabout that connects numerousfederal agencies and can verify people's identity, citizenship,and other facts.

Problems with the data services hub affect customers of and the state-run exchanges. State exchanges hadbeen running smoothly.

The verification is necessary to determine eligibility fortax credits that reduce the cost of monthly insurance premiums,a key provision of the law.

A spokesman for Verizon said the problem would be fixed "assoon as possible."

"Our engineers have been working with HHS and othertechnology companies to identify and address the root cause ofthe issue," Verizon spokesman Jeff Nelson said.

Health officials in Connecticut, one of the 14 states, plusthe District of Columbia, that launched their own healthexchanges instead of relying on federal government sites, saidon Sunday that potential customers would not be able to completethe sign-up process for some services but could create accountsand search for pricing comparisons.

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services toldConnecticut officials about the outage and gave no indication ofwhen the data services hub would be functioning again, said aspokeswoman for Access Health CT, the Connecticut exchange.

The problems with the rollout of the law have become apolitical liability for Obama. The White House has said Obamastill has "full confidence" in HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius,whose department is responsible for implementing the law.Sebelius has faced Republicans calls for her resignation.

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