Federal contractors have identified most of the main problems crippling President Obama’s online health insurance marketplace, but the administration has been slow to issue orders for fixing those flaws, and some contractors worry that the system may be weeks away from operating smoothly, people close to the project say.
Administration officials approached the contractors last week to see if they could perform the necessary repairs and reboot the system by Nov. 1. However, that goal struck many contractors as unrealistic, at least for major components of the system. Some specialists working on the project said the online system required such extensive repairs that it might not operate smoothly until after the Dec. 15 deadline for people to sign up for coverage starting in January, although that view is not universally shared.
In interviews, experts said the technological problems of the site went far beyond the roadblocks to creating accounts that continue to prevent legions of users from even registering. Indeed, several said, the login problems, though vexing to consumers, may be the easiest to solve. One specialist said that as many as five million lines of software code may need to be rewritten before the Web site runs properly.
“The account creation and registration problems are masking the problems that will happen later,” said one person involved in the repair effort.
The scrambling underscores the pressures on the administration to fix what is widely viewed as the president’s biggest domestic achievement. Millions of Americans have spent countless hours in frustration trying to use the federal Web site, healthcare.gov, and its extensive problems have become a political crisis for the administration, providing new opportunities for Republicans who want to roll back the health care law.
Over the weekend, officials sought to counter pronouncements of failure by announcing that almost half a million people have submitted applications for health insurance through the federal and state marketplaces, about half of them through state exchanges. But officials declined to say how many have actually enrolled in insurance plans, and executives from insurance companies, which receive the enrollment files from the government, say their numbers have been low. The enrollment period ends March 31; those who go without coverage may be subject to fines. . .