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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.


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Submitted by Ellen on
I'm having the same problem. Still waiting for someone to call me back about my identity verification. Where did my two proof mailings go? Help!!!!
Submitted by Susan on
I have the same problem. Guess what its quicker just to contact the insurance company you might be interested in. Instead of going through thIS STOMACH TWISTING. I have spoken to three reps who were VERY KIND and seemed knowledgeable, HOWEVER, THE GOVT. is TYING THEIR HANDS. What is this "Advance Resolution Group". Is that MYTHICAL? Now that I've read that somebody else is having the same trouble. I'M REALLY WORRIED.
Submitted by Michelle on
Yeah, why is there no obvious focus on those of us who are stuck in an "In Progress" status. My application has been in progress for weeks. It seems that you should be working on pushing people through the system instead of trying to push more people into an already critically flawed system.
Submitted by Kathy on
JEP, It has been suggested on other blogs that anyone who started an application in October and finds their status as "In Progress" should re-apply using a new email address, username, and password. I followed that advice and was able to create an account, had my identity verified, was given a $$ amount of subsidy to expect, and chose an insurance plan all in less than one hour. Try it. The website has made great improvements since last week.
Submitted by anna on
I agree - I would give anything to "View my Eligibility Results" and not have a blank page or the button not work at all - it is one way one day and the other the next..??? I signed up in early Oct too and still I cant progress into purchasing coverage cause I can't see what I'm eligible for - If something is wrong on my application I would love to know! I check every day to see if anything has changed and still nothing! That would be okay if I could call and find out - but they wont tell me either! so frustrating..hope it is all working by December 15th deadline!
Submitted by Nancy Friday on
Try starting a new application with a new email account and a different username and password. A lot of people have reported success when they did that. I did that and I am still waiting for identity verification, but it seems to help the majority of the people who do start a new application.
Submitted by CMF on
Thank you JEP! I am also stuck in this same "In Progress" status since October. Calling customer service or initiating an online chat yields NO solutions. Very frustrating!
Submitted by Glynis on
People who started an application in early October and were still stuck in identity verification are having success enrolling by creating a new account with a new username, new password, and new email address. Delete cookies and temporary internet files first. From what I gather the quality of support is not consistent. Sometimes you get a really good one and other times not. From what I've heard Live Chat is limited in what they can do. Calling phone support is better but again you might get someone that isn't helpful at all. It's frustrating for sure. As far as I know, nobody is monitoring these blog posts. Frankly, I don't know why they even allow comments. What happens is people end up coming here because they are so frustrated and looking for any kind of help they can find. The only help available is those of us sharing what we've learned. Once you get past the verification stage you'll get an email to view your eligibility results. To do that you'll click on the words "Individual and Family Coverage" on the "what would you like to do?" page next to where it says "in progress". On the next screen click on "Eligibility & appeals" to view the eligibility document. If you click on view eligibility results and it looks like nothing happened, look for a pdf file in the lower left corner of your browser. Click on the file name to open it. Click on "Resume Enrollment" to go to the "Enroll To-Do List". Don't worry about what it says in the red bar, it's just a reminder. You set your subsidy credit on this page and click on the green "Set" to see and compare plans. After you select a plan click on "Confirm". The greyed out "Locked" buttons will unlock after you complete the preceeding step. You have to complete each step to enroll. What's worked for others when they got stuck on a step was to call the 800 number and a phone rep walked them through it.
Submitted by Rebecca on
Exactly JEP. Those of us who applied in October, and are stuck in an endless loop of error messages, ..... what are WE supposed to do? I've never been without health insurance in my life ... but my current plan is cancelled as of the end of the year. BLOG AUTHOR .... what do you suggest we do? Start shopping private insurance again outside of this system? I want to be supportive of the President's initiative ... but not at the risk of being uninsured. I really don't know what to do at this point (not getting call-backs to help address our error issues). :(