Health Website Failures Impede Signup Surge as Deadline Nears

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from The New York Times,

A frenzied last-minute scramble to sign up for health insurance overloaded phone lines and temporarily overwhelmed the website of the federal marketplace on Monday, as hundreds of thousands of people around the country raced to beat the deadline to obtain coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Administration officials, stepping up the push for enrollment in the final hours, said they were confident that they would reach their original goal of having seven million people sign up for private health plans through federal and state exchanges. But the end of the open enrollment period, which began six months ago with the disastrous debut of the federal website, starts a new phase likely to be defined by the economics of health insurance as well as by politics.
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Though, the federal website, performed markedly better on Monday than on the day it opened, many consumers still struggled to enroll. The site unexpectedly stopped taking applications for several hours early Monday because of a software problem discovered during scheduled maintenance overnight, said Aaron Albright, a spokesman at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency running the site.For at least an hour at midday, the site again thwarted people trying to create accounts so they could buy insurance online.

“We are experiencing record volume on, with more than 1.6 million visits as of 2 p.m. and approximately 125,000 concurrent users at the peak” on Monday, said Joanne Peters, a spokeswoman for Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services. “As of 4 p.m., there were more than 840,000 calls to the call center.”

At the White House, officials embarked on a kind of victory lap. Jay Carney, the press secretary, said that the number of people signing up for health care would be “significantly above six million,” and he reminded journalists of the predictions of doom when crashed last fall.

Mr. Carney said he did not have “any concrete numbers” to show how many people had paid premiums, as required to activate coverage.

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