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Progress on Capacity

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Friday, November 22, 2013

Today, Jeff Zients offered an update on our efforts to improve HealthCare.gov; data on key metrics on site performance, the progress made this week and the view looking forward.  

In late October, we appointed QSSI as the general contractor to deploy their expertise in technology and program management to lead this project forward.

The team from QSSI continues to work with people from CMS and other contractors around the clock to troubleshoot the system, prioritize fixes, and provide real-time management decision making.

Thanks to this team effort, we have made measurable progress.

Before providing some specifics on this week, remember what we said at the end of October: HealthCare.gov will work smoothly for the vast majority of users by the end of November.

We’re on track to do so.

We have two objectives: addressing capacity shortfalls and managing volume, and improving user experience. 

Both are necessary to support the President’s goal that every American has access to affordable quality health coverage.

In terms of capacity, HealthCare.gov will be able to operate at the capacity that was originally intended: a rate of approximately 50,000 users on the site at the same time.

It’s important to keep in mind here, that this is not a simple website. Rather, it’s a complex system doing complicated work.

The system needs to process the millions upon millions of unique circumstances that consumers present. It needs to determine eligibility for hundreds of state and county-level programs and all their permutations. And it needs to factor in subsidy levels based on family size, income, and plan selection.

This is much more than a website for browsing or conducting routine transactions.

With that context, and the capacity we will have by the end of the month, this means the system will be able to accommodate more than 800,000 visits a day from consumers who are seeking information, filling out applications, shopping, and enrolling.

In terms of our second objective, improving the site experience, the vast majority of users will not experience the error messages, slow response times, and system outages that characterized their experience in October.

The system will not work perfectly. But it will operate smoothly for the vast majority of users.

We have said from the beginning that HealthCare.gov is fixable. And we are working around the clock to do just that.

While there will not be a magic moment at the end of the month when the work will be complete, users coming to the site today are already having a greatly improved experience. The site will be better at the end of the month than it is today, and it will continue to improve thereafter.

This past week HealthCare.gov was stable, with the exception of an unscheduled outage on Wednesday and a short period on Tuesday.

On our key operating metrics, response times and error rates, we continue to make progress. For most users, speed and response times were good and error rates were low.

This past week, average response time for most users has been under 1 second. That compares to the first few weeks after the site launched when we estimate that users were waiting an average of eight seconds for pages across the site to load.

Having response time under one second is a significant improvement.

In terms of the site’s error rate, last week we reported it was 1percent. This week, we’ve driven it down to .75 percent. As a reminder, a few weeks ago the error rate was 6 percent.

We are also seeing marked improvements as a result of the more than 300 software improvements, bug fixes, and hardware upgrades we’ve made across the last several weeks.

We have a new prioritized list of 50 additional fixes and improvements that we’re focused on for the upcoming week.

Notably, while we will continue to fix bugs and make improvements throughout the system, the priority fixes we’re focused on now are mostly aimed at improving the user experience further along in the process: in Plan Compare, in Shopping; and in Enrollment.

During peak periods of volume, some users still experience slower response times. Right now, the system is able to maintain good performance with about 25,000 users in the system at the same time. This compares favorably to a few weeks ago when, at lower volumes, the system was often unstable.

This increase in performance results from hardware, software and infrastructure upgrades and fixes that we have implemented to increase the system’s capacity.

These improvements will continue this weekend as the team will be installing additional hardware capacity in the computing, storage, and database environments.

These upgrades, and others planned for next week, will allow us to serve increasingly higher volumes and to double the current capacity to 50,000 users at the same time.

HealthCare.gov was originally intended to handle this load and the improvements we’re making will bring it up to this level so that the site will have the capacity that was intended. We will continue to evaluate ongoing capacity needs.

Now, to be clear, there will be times that volume on HealthCare.gov will exceed this capacity. To specifically prepare for those times when spikes in user volume outstrip the systems’ expanded capacity, we will deploy a customer-friendly queuing system to handle these spikes by serving consumers in an orderly fashion and by allowing consumers to request email notifications when it’s a  better time to come back to the site.

Stepping back, we’ve made a lot of progress working through our punch list, and the consumer experience is much better.

We’re on track to more than double today’s capacity, so that each day, the site will be able to accommodate more than 800,000 visits from consumers who are seeking information, filling out applications, shopping, and enrolling.

We have work to do to further improve the system and user experience. It’s likely as we move forward, we’ll find additional glitches and experience intermittent periods of sub-optimal performance.

Our bottom line is that we’ve made measurable progress in getting the site working smoothly for the vast majority of users.


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/.


Join the Conversation


Submitted by Jamie on
This is ridiculous! I accidently made a typo in my application. It askes me to review it and it won't accept the new information. Then after three times it accepted the new information and I finished the application , signed it and it won't give me any options except to review all the information again. When I reviewed the information it again gives me my previous information, (which was a typo to begin with). It never updated the information. Then I texted with customer service where they offered no help to the problem.
Submitted by Melissa on
I have the same problem, and the online help provides only automated responses, and the call center is a complete waste of time.
Submitted by Mike on
Site does not allow comparison of plans, does not provide a way to find which hospitals and doctors are providers in each plan, and is generally horrible. What an incredible waste of money and time!
Submitted by Donald on
One more to the dueling anecdote list: After 8 weeks I finally managed to select a plan and go through the enroll stage up to the Review and Confirm step. I get to a screen that has a green button Pay Now , press it, and get an error screen that dumps out a bogus web.config file. Nice. So I call the healthcare.gov call center. The guy says he cannot even get as far as I did. I ask if my data has gotten sent via the 834 form electronically to the insurer. The guy doesn't know. The people at the call center don't even know how the system is suppose to work much less are able to address problems with it not working.
Submitted by Glynis on
People stuck in various places who submitted an application in October are having success enrolling by creating a new account with a new username, new password, and new email address. Delete your cookies and temporary internet files first. There is also a very good blog post that give tips and tricks for navigating the site and troubleshooting common problems. Google: "my obamacare success story: It was worth the wait!" If you live in Texas, Ohio, or Florida there is a pilot project that started on 11/22 to enroll directly with insurers and get your subsidy credit. Check out valuepenguin.com or healthsherpa.com to see what plans are available to you first. Those sites will give details like deductible, copays, etc.
Submitted by robin on
I had a client the other day say he isn't comfortable now with the security of the site, and doesn't want his PII on the site. I explained it's the only way to get APTC, and cost sharing, but he isn't convinced this is a good thing for him. Yet another barrier to using the Exchange. What is being done to convince people it is secure?
Submitted by James Wimberley on
Healthgov is a postbox not a database. To hack your data on it, the bad guy would be to know where the application file has got to. It would be simpler for him to attack the databases where your data certainly is, like the IRS or Social Security. Do you propose to stop cooperating with them?
Submitted by ESWL on
My application was processed on 10/6/2013. Still to this date 11/25/2015 unable to complete enrollment process online. Same as "Frustrated". It won't let me go any further, the system keeps looping back and forth to the same links. When will this be fixed? My daughter will be uninsured on Jan 1. Need answers fast
Submitted by Glynis on
Applications from October are corrupted. Start over by creating by creating a new account with a new username, new password, and new email address. Delete your cookies and temporary internet files first. Whenever you get an error on your page, delete your cookies and temporary internet files, logout, restart your browser, login again.
Submitted by Luis on
The application has created too many duplicate names and there is no way to erase them. Even the representatives cannot do it. Make an option to erase names. Or to edit without having to start again
Submitted by Theresa on
I have yet to even be able to create a user account. And I have tried a dozen times. Patiently. On different dates at different times for the past 8 weeks. All I ever get is the little 5 letter word. Error. It really sucks to be part of that supposed .75%
Submitted by C. E. on
My application has been "pending" for two months. Your "tech support" has been telling me for eight weeks to "try again tomorrow." Fix my account.
Submitted by Glynis on
The only thing you can do is create a new account with a new username, new password, and new emails address. Delete your cookies and temporary internet files first.
Submitted by Debbie on
Unfortunately when some do that they get the message that the email is already in use so they are really stuck.
Submitted by sheryl on
health care.gov sent me an email but cannot find it when i pull my account up when will this be fixed
Submitted by Dan on
While it's nice that you're increasing capacity, I have yet to be able to complete an application on-line in 5-weeks now, as something always crashes for me, despite my changing logins & passwords & email address & deleting cookies = nothing has worked for me at all, at least via the web. The good news is that I was able to complete 2/3rds of my application over the phone several weeks ago, before it also crashed. And the final 1/3rd was completed late last week, also over the phone = I'm finally enrolled!!! In the meantime, I'll keep trying to complete my 2 internet applications that are out there, just because I'd like to know if what ever bug(s) are still effecting them, ever get resolved, at which point I'll update everyone. So maybe pick up the phone, as applying via the Markerplaces' website still seems to be a work in progress, at least for me.
Submitted by Gayle on
NO way this will be ready by Nov 30. my app was set up 6 weeks ago and when I was finally able to get online, everything was gone and states my app is incomplete so I basically have to start over. Now I tried today to get on and receiving a "downstream error" notice , did a live chat and once again all we get is apologies, blah blah blah. This is the biggest joke I have ever seen and should be repealed and started over. pathetic to say the least.
Submitted by Alexandra S, Virginia resident on
Healthcare.gov service reps keep giving my wrong info on how to reset my user name and password. Has any progress been made on fixing this bug on anyone's acct? I have never been able to access my account. I was approved to enroll after phone interview on Oct. 23, 2013. I need to see plans to compare them before I pick one. Why can't Healthcare.gov put pdfs of the plans and the metal levels on the website? Then consumers can access the plans and details of what's offered.
Submitted by Glynis on
To see plans go to valuepenguin.com or healthsherpa.com. Then you can pick a plan you want and call them back to finish your application over the phone.
Submitted by Karl on
Is there somewhere we can report bugs/usability issues?
Submitted by DEE on
There is no point in reporting bugs - nothing works. Nobody cares. Obama has good ideas but is incompetent when it comes to selecting people to implement them.
Submitted by Anonymous on
I have the same problem. My identity is not able to be verified. You should give some directions as to what to do next. Should we restart the application process or what?
Submitted by Bill on
I am pulling for the Patient's Protection & Affordable Care Act implementation!!!!
Submitted by Frustrated on
I signed up in early Oct. My application is still stuck. Can't continue. Can't enroll. If healthcare.gov can't fix this specific problem by the Nov 1 deadline, then they haven't fixed the website! Period!
Submitted by Glynis on
Oct. applications got corrupted. Start over by creating a new account with a new username, new password, and new email address. Delete your cookies and temporary internet files first. Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Safari browsers work better than FireFox.