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Making a difference in how people find health information, today and into the future.

Doing Better: Making Improvements to HealthCare.gov

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Over the past two and a half weeks, millions of Americans visited HealthCare.gov to look at their new health care options under the Affordable Care Act. In that time, nearly half a million applications for coverage have been submitted from across the nation. This tremendous interest – with over 19 million unique visits to date to HealthCare.gov– confirms that the American people are looking for quality, affordable health coverage, and want to find it online.

Unfortunately, the experience on HealthCare.gov has been frustrating for many Americans.  Some have had trouble creating accounts and logging in to the site, while others have received confusing error messages, or had to wait for slow page loads or forms that failed to respond in a timely fashion. The initial consumer experience of HealthCare.gov has not lived up to the expectations of the American people. We are committed to doing better. 

Aside from the difficulties since launching the site, there are parts of the overall system that have proved up to the task.  The “Data Hub,” component, which provides HealthCare.gov with information that aids in determining eligibility for qualified health plans, is working.  Individuals have been able to verify their eligibility for credits, enabling them to shop for and enroll in low or even no-cost health plans.

WHAT HAPPENED – WHAT WE ARE WORKING ON

Since launch, when we first recognized these issues, we have been working around the clock to make improvements.  We have updated the site several times with new code that includes bug fixes that have greatly improved the HealthCare.gov experience. The initial wave of interest stressed the account service, resulting in many consumers experiencing trouble signing up, while those that were able to sign up sometimes had problems logging in.

In response, we have made a number of improvements to the account service.  Initially, we implemented a virtual “waiting room,” but many found this experience to be confusing.  We continued to add more capacity in order to meet demand and execute software fixes to address the sign up and log in issues, stabilizing those parts of the service and allowing us to remove the virtual “waiting room.”  Today, more and more individuals are successfully creating accounts, logging in, and moving on to apply for coverage and shop for plans.  We're proud of these quick improvements, but we know there's still more work to be done. We will continue to conduct regular maintenance nearly every night to improve the experience.

TECH SURGE

To ensure that we make swift progress, and that the consumer experience continues to improve, our team has called in additional help to solve some of the more complex technical issues we are encountering.

Our team is bringing in some of the best and brightest from both inside and outside government to scrub in with the team and help improve HealthCare.gov.  We're also putting in place tools and processes to aggressively monitor and identify parts of HealthCare.gov where individuals are encountering errors or having difficulty using the site, so we can prioritize and fix them.  We are also defining new test processes to prevent new issues from cropping up as we improve the overall service and deploying fixes to the site during off-peak hours on a regular basis.

Most importantly, we want to hear from you, and make sure that your experience with HealthCare.gov is a positive one.  If you have any comments, either complimentary or critical, please let us know by sharing your feedback at https://www.healthcare.gov/connect/.  We've already heard so many stories of individuals getting health insurance for the first time, and we are dedicated to making that possible for all Americans.

 

This post is no longer accepting comments. If you want to learn more about the Affordable Care Act, please visithhs.gov/healthcare. If you have question about or need assistance with health insurance enrollment, please visithttps://www.healthcare.gov/contact-us/.

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Comments

Submitted by Richard on
6 occasion on web site, over 3 hours without getting verifications, and get an idea of cost or possible credits. Will pay fine, I don't want the hassle!
Submitted by Terry on
The chat feature online has been good every time I've needed an aswer to a question. This adds a human feature to the online sign-up experience.
Submitted by Laura on
This website is a fiasco. I will be losing my insurance from Blue Cross at the end of the year and think I may be eligible for subsidies, but cannot login, change my password or reregister, if in fact I really did login initially. I'm trying to plan my budget for the coming year and make some purchases for the home, but I must delay these until I know how much my insurance will cost me. I am an Independent but I feel all Americans should have healthcare just like they receive education. The American people are due an apology and a quick fix.
Submitted by donna on
when do you think this will be working perfectly?
Submitted by Charlie on
Of these 19 million people who have visited the site, how can you confirm they are actually looking for heathcare coverage? Of all the people I have met that have visited the site not one has the intention of getting any healthcare coverage through ACA. still appears that a vast majority of the uninsured have yet to visit the site. Even if the 19 million people who visited were all uninsured (which is not true).
Submitted by Michael DeKort on
Please look to DoD CMI Level 5 practices. Not certification but the proper systems engineering, development and test practices. I was the software manager for all of NORAD, worked at that level and know most commercial companies don't come close. What that causes is massive failures when their weakenesses are exposed. I would be glad to help. Please contact me through LinkedIn
Submitted by Terry on
The manual for CAC training (SOP Manual) was excellent, but the online training was even better. Would love to have a pdf of the online training to refer back to for the details and the examples!
Submitted by Norman on
I signed up by telephone on October1,2013. However, I've had problems viewing plans because:(1)the website requires I apply online(2)this site says to try again later(3)the site remembers my previous online usernames and passwords and I must keep thinking up new usernames and passwords(4)even when I type in new usernames and passwords the site does not allow me to continue, after the security page, to view plans for Oklahoma. I called an Oklahoma assister called Planned Parenthood and they told me they needed my login information which I do not have because of the glitches, so they can not help me either?
Submitted by Anonymous on
You have had years to develop and wasted hundreds of millions of dollars on something that is so bad even your lapdog media is criticizing.
Submitted by Robert Hull on
I am befuddled that after more than 3 years the system doesn't work. In my opinion, errors were made by HHS in not hiring experts in this field such as Apple, Google or Microsoft. I certainly hope the system is fixed; however, it doesn't seem likely in the near future. Best wishes
Submitted by Keith on
Why is the number of attempts at automatic identity verification limited? Once reached, calling Experian without a Reference Number is useless and uploading a document seems useless due to on the rare occasion it claims success it also claims only one byte (of a 78kb file) was uploaded AND you never get the "promised" email. Since I suspect my automatic verification failed due to my having a freeze on my credit report, why didn't you warn people to remove the freeze before applying? Now that my freeze is removed (for 30 days of which 11 have already past), I can't get anywhere due to exceeding the limited number of automatic verifications. I guess my real question is why did you tie identity verification to Experian or any credit reporting agency? Why not tie it to the IRS? Given my problems, why can't a registered user delete their application and start over with a new application? If the new application gave me a new limit on number of automatic verification attempts I suspect that would solve all my problems now that my credit freeze is lifted. And why couldn't people "shop" after registering on the site and not go through identity verification until "checkout"? If a banking account/routing number or a credit card was used to enroll, wouldn't that be pretty damn good identity verification? It's good enough for the online retailers? Bottom line: Like everything in government, you've made it much more complicated than it needed to be. You failed to follow the KISS principle: Keep It Simple Stupid.
Submitted by Dave on
Just a comment from an IT professional that works on very large integration projects every day. It sounds like this had all the ingredients for a bad launch from the beginning. Late start. Changing requirements. Fixed deployment date. Underfunded. Understaffed. A large group opposing the project from inside. Multiple vendors. No end2end testing or reporting. People are right, the technical problems in this day and age of APIs and Web Services should not have been the issue.Sounds like you need some really great program managers at this point.
Submitted by Ivan on
" We're also putting in place tools and processes to aggressively monitor and identify parts of HealthCare.gov where individuals are encountering errors or having difficulty using the site, so we can prioritize and fix them" What?! Are you saying there is no serious logging and you are just putting it in place?!
Submitted by Chas on
More WH/HHS spin to divert from the ACA Train Wreck. Defund/Repeal the abomination
Submitted by Michael Babcock on
This is simply a disaster and one of the worst laws ever concieved.
Submitted by Cynthia on
I live in VA, and have tried since the beginning to establish a log-in and password. I have received error messages every time. I have tried the online chat and even tried to call. This is hopeless!
Submitted by Dave on
I'd rather not have to post to twitter or facebook which I use for different purposes than providing feedback to companies or government entities! Hope this feedback gets to the eyes of those that can see it! I was on the exchange from the first day trying to get the quotes for health insurance for my family of 6. My current health insurance sent me an early renewal- trying to get away with having to insure over the exchange they offered me a renewal on Dec 1st if I accepted the deal by 10/15. I am personally of the opinion that trying to avoid or sabotage a law is wrong even if you don't agree with it, or benefit from it. Keeping healthy families off of the exchange just makes the percentage of people with pre-existing conditions higher and makes the ACA less affordable, so I hoped to find a reasonable plan on the exchange, knowing I won't likely be receiving any subsidy. But I needed to know if those prices were anywhere in line with what I am paying now and do so before 10/15! So on 10/1 I was one of the millions trying to get on the exchange. I tried and tried and eventually got to the verification section. I recognized the security question answers easily but it continued to retest me as though I got them wrong. After a few attempts it said I had to call the credit company to verify. I spent a few days trying to get through there and eventually did, and verified my identity with the same questions the site asked. But when I went to the site it still showed that I was not verified. After a few days of waiting I noticed that I could submit my driver's license online which I scanned and uploaded. I did that and waited a week. Still no change. I had submitted everything else I could but until they could verify my identity I could not see the offerings. Finally I called the credit company again and they said that I was marked as verified but they didn't know why Healthcare.gov did not reflect that. She recommended waiting a few weeks. That wasn't an option for me, so I decided to start a new application. This time it all went through the first time. I was verified right online and did not have to call or scan anything. I filled out everything else and at the very end saw a box that said that the server was down to accept my application for coverage. It gave the option to save and try again later. I came back later and found that it did not really save everything- it made me go through and verify most pages, and many of them asked me to answer things again (like the race of each of the 6 in my family). This was tedious and frustrating, especially after the 4th or 5th time. I had to do this because there was no way to verify the server was back up without going through it all and seeing if it worked. Eventually it worked and I was able to see the offerings. I have since selected a policy on the exchange - there were cheaper options but with super high deductibles. The one I chose was actually more than what I was paying privately, but it is considered a platinum level plan with reasonable deductibles and copays. After having seen many of the bugs and problems with the site, and seeing many of them worked out, I do have some suggestions for things to consider. I am a software developer by trade so hopefully these will be helpful to your developers: 1. There should be a server status page or widget at the top level of the process to show which systems are online and healthy. It would be nice to show even the level of traffic that you are experiencing perhaps using a signal bars type of look. Then people who are not in a hurry would know to come back later since it's going to be slow. And those that are having to fill out 30+ pages of info know that the server that accepts it is offline at the moment and can save their time for later as well. 2. Check that each page truly saves to your databases- there are many questions that don't appear to be saved as part of the application. 3. Suggest starting over to the customers that are stuck in limbo- obviously you've fixed a lot of things but many of those in a rush are stuck in a state of limbo where they would be better off starting over. 4. The waiting room concept was sound, but your implementation was not. When a site can only handle x people, having a waiting room is a great approach as you try to expand the capabilities of the site. The blog post made it sound like the waiting room confused a lot of users- I doubt that was the case. The problem was that it didn't work right- after getting past the waiting room, the site was still overwhelmed. Perhaps you had allowed too many in at a time, and just needed to tweak things, but I think after waiting a while to get to the site we expected that the site was then going to work and not still be overwhelmed. If you do bring back the waiting room concept in the future- you should show their place in line/queue so people see the progress towards being served. 5. The auto logout has issues- I walked away from my computer for a while and got distracted. When I came back hours later it was asking if I wanted another 30 minutes. That prompt had been up for a few hours no doubt but when I clicked yes, I was able to continue. That shouldn't be- that means the whole time I was away the auto logout didn't happen as it was waiting for my response. Any bank website can show you how this would be properly implemented- the page behind the prompt should auto logout if you get no response from the user. 6. The filters on the actual plans page have issues- there were some price range filters, I could pick between < 100, 100-200, etc with the top value being 500+. In my case, with a large family, there was not one offering under 750.00/month so the filters were useless. Those filters should be based on the plans being offered, not static hard coded values, unless they include the ranges that people see. Either that, or offer plans to families of 6 that are under 500.00 ;) 7. I know you couldn't show people the offerings for them until you verify their Identity, income levels for subsidies, etc., but surely a large amount of people were looking to see what the prices were without actually wanting to sign up. There should have been some overview for each state without requiring all of this verification- there could have been a simple estimate form where people could fill out their income level, state of residence, number of people in the family and see a sample of the costs. You would have saved yourselves a LOT of headache and only had legitimate customers coming through the heavy part of the web site. Hope that this is helpful to you and hope that you are able to iron out the kinks in the site. The actual design of the site is fine- it just needs the kinks worked out!
Submitted by Fred on
Website said my wife and I were ineligible due to current incarceration. We have never been arrested in our lives, both 63!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Submitted by Rhonda on
I don't know what all the commotion is about signing up for Obamacare. I have Medicare so I am not concerned for me, but I will be helping my roommate sign up. All computer programs have problems and glitches at first. Computer programming, even if written by Bill Gates himself is inexact and has periods of trial and error. You cannot expect perfection from the start. This is why I am waiting for a couple of weeks to sign him up, until you all have time to work the bugs out. Just do the best you can as fast as you can. Of course the Republicans are having a field day with this. They want it to fail so badly they are slobbering like dogs with distemper. Anything y'all do is going to be "the train wreck that is obamacare" as far as they are concerned. They are probably not above sabotage, however, so make sure you know the people working on the program, that everyone has had good background checks and top notch skills and is vetted. Remember, Romney was brought down by a tape acquired by Jimmy Carter's grandson and Carter was an honest, decent, Christian president. So don't put anything past the GOP. They will do whatever they can to stop Obamacare.
Submitted by Deborah on
having many of the same frustrations as mentioned above. I do hope all the bugs can get out soon....my job somewhat depends on it. Was hired by a respectable ins.co. in PA (temporary for now) as a Call Agent to correctly inform/enroll/and even sell plans...I can only hope this gets better fast. Good Luck!
Submitted by Bob on
"Tech Surge" = "More Money" More of our tax dollars spent by a bloated government, on a failed system. Fact; Socialist programs will not work in a democratic-republic.
Submitted by noreen on
I see the premiums, Why not the deductibles and co pays?
Submitted by darren on
Wow, that is some spin! 48,000,000 uninsured Americans, and less than 500,000 were able to register, and that include duplicate and bad information. I wish my job in the real world allowed me to call that a success. I need to work in the public sector.
Submitted by Bruce on
really ? so on oct 3 my wife and i applied over the phone, (the web site was not working and still is not working, same error message, on the security questions, security answers need to be distinct ), at the time we filed out the application over the phone, we where told that we would receive an application in the mail , so we could sign it and return it , to be processed. In a timely fashion . move ahead 8 or 9 days and I call to check on status of the application, and im told it will be another week, before I receive the application , and at that time i told that the application is electronically signed, and i should receive something in the mail shortly. Well , I called on the 20th of october and now the application could not be processed and I have file another application, so that was done on the phone AGAIN, on the 20th of october. And we wait for what can go wrong next. Very disappointing , to say they least.
Submitted by Rob on
Uhmm, since we didn't do it right the first time, how much is it going to cost to re do it the second time, and are we more confident now that it will work the second time or will there be a third time?

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