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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 Phyllis on
Same issue for 2 1/2 weeks. Can not get past the tobacco use question. Will you address this problem?
Submitted by Wisconsin on
Started app in early October, and never could upload ID's. Since then, I have never been able to get back into my account. When I try to log in with my user name and password it sends me right back to the Log In page.???????
Submitted by Ron on
The earlier person JEP is correct, while the healthcare.gov might be working for new applicants (which I have seen with my friends), It does not fix any issues for the people who have already started applications in October. The bad part about it is that there is no option to start a new application in the same account. One one application for one state... Right now i am stuck at "View Eligibility" Page where it does not show me "Continue Enrollment" Button for now one month. Not sure how to proceed from here.
Submitted by Rebecca on
I did my app by phone. What now? I have heard nothing back. I have no insurance companies to apply to. I was told last week that someone would call me in two to five days. That was a week ago. I was told app was to mailed on 18th of Oct. Nothing. The site is of no help at all, or I'm just too dumb to use it.
Submitted by Eric on
Today, upon submitting my fourth application, I finally got through the entire process and enrolled in a plan, WITHOUT ERROR. It seems like the fixes are working but only with new applications, my old applications are still getting various errors.
Submitted by Glynis on
If you go to healthcare.gov/blog/3-tips-to-remember-when-you-create-a-marketplace-account/ and scroll to the blog posts at the bottom you'll find several posts from me with tips for the problems that people have been posting on this blog. Unlike here, it's easier to follow because when you post a comment others can reply and you will get notified so you can read it.
Submitted by srg on
Many of us are absolutely prevented from completing ID verification and applications, with errors occurring consistently as we go through the applications. I've been through my applications over 55 times, never getting to the end. 8 calls to healthcare.gov and live chat result in no help whatsoever. Not once has a rep been able even to open my application on their screen. There is obviously a glitch related to the account or application but this is never acknowledged. I'm told only that there's nothing they can do; I should try again later. 6 weeks of this and now I'm becoming concerned that I will be denied the opportunity to get insurance (contrary to promises). There must be a way to address these issues for those of us who are stuck. It's not just server capacity! After weeks of effort I now can't apply by computer, phone, or mail (I'm told that a clerk will have to input my paper application into the computer, so the same problem will occur if they try.) I work on this over 3 hours a day, and no help or recourse from healthcare.gov. Why can't you help us?
Submitted by Totally Frustrated on
I agree with JEP. I'm actually wondering if the early applications shouldn't get totally purged. I was finally able to get past the verification process ... don't ask me HOW? Now I'm stuck at being able to view my "eligibility" results [the box is blank]. Without being able to view them, one can't view plans and make an intelligent decision. There also seems to be a discrepancy as to whether you can pick a plan [ie via BC/BS] to have in place for January 1st and have it linked to your eligibility results, when that function is actually working. OR does one have to go through the marketplace for that credit to be applied? Ask that question ... NO ONE seems to have a definitive answer. OH and by the way ... giving my info via phone on October 2nd now shows a totally BLANK application, according to one Marketplace rep. So that process also didn't work for me.
Submitted by Jim on
My app has been in since Oct 4. This morning 11/23 I still cannot view (and never have been able to)Detailed Eligibility Results. Those buttons are dead. I am very computer literate and have tried different browsers, cleared caches, and I am able to see pdf files on other web sites. Also I now cannot get past Select Premium Tax Credit (since last 4 days). I get this error: Application ID: Date: 2013-11-23 10:28:55 An error occurred while getting your premium tax credit information. Please try again. If you continue getting this message, call the Marketplace Call Center at 1-800-318-2596. TTY users should call 1-855-889-4325. Error ID:500.806
Submitted by Gil on
Jim when I read your comments I had to stop and wonder whether I had forgotten and somehow written them myself. My situation is almost identical to yours in every respect. I've actually called the Marketplace twice so far and they can't get me unstuck either. Their advice is always apologetic and check back in a few days. That's where I've been since the beginning of October, just like you. If you're till stuck you might try calling and as the verbal complaints on this issue mount up maybe something will get fixed.