U.S. says new queuing system will help if HealthCare.gov gets too much traffic

Reuters

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON, Nov 25 (Reuters) - The Obama administration onMonday announced a plan to help HealthCare.gov visitors copewith online glitches if traffic surges after the troubledwebsite is working smoothly for most people this weekend aspromised.

Warning that the federal healthcare website will still beplagued by delays and outages in the weeks to come, anadministration official said people who log on to shop or applyfor subsidized health coverage will join a new "queuing system"if traffic exceeds a benchmark of 800,000 visitors.

"Consumers may not immediately be able to complete theapplication. But they will be queued in order to ensure asmoother process," said Julie Bataille, communications directorfor the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agencyresponsible for HealthCare.gov.

The faulty site at the center of the rocky Obamacare rolloutcrashed during its Oct. 1 launch, when 2.8 million visitorsflooded the site. Most received error messages or foundthemselves stuck waiting for pages to load.

But if volume becomes a problem this time, the new queuingsystem will enable consumers to see educational material whilethey wait or allow them to submit an email address where theycan be notified later once the system is back up, according tothe Bataille.

HealthCare.gov is an online portal to a new insurancemarketplace that offers subsidized private health coverage tomillions of uninsured Americans in 36 states. But its troubledrollout has been a major political problem for President BarackObama and the healthcare law known as Obamacare, his signaturedomestic policy.

After weeks of emergency fixes, the administration haspledged to have the website working smoothly for 80 percent ofvisitors by Nov. 30. But with less than a week to go before thedeadline, the administration appears to be preparing the publicfor problems.

"It is likely that as we move forward, we'll find additionalglitches and experience intermittent periods of suboptimalperformance," Bataille told reporters after HealthCare.gov'sapplication and enrollment software went down for an hour onMonday.

"The system will not work perfectly on Dec. 1. But it willoperate much better than it did in October," she said. (Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Fred Barbash and CynthiaOsterman)

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