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HealthCare.gov experiences another outage

The Monday crash comes days before a government deadline to have the site largely fixed

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Parts of HealthCare.gov, the two-month-old insurance-shopping website run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, crashed for about an hour Monday, just days before agency officials say the site will be running smoothly for the "vast majority" of users.

The site, a key part of 2010's Affordable Care Act insurance reform legislation, also experienced "periods of latency and slowness" Sunday, said Julie Bataille, communications director for the HHS Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Government officials, including HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and President Barack Obama, have promised that the site, which allows uninsured U.S. residents to shop for and compare health coverage, would be working well for the majority of people by the end of this month.

The outage in the insurance application and enrollment tools on the website Monday was due to "parts of the system not communicating effectively on the back end," Bataille said during a press briefing. The federal data-services hub portion of the website, where health insurers are linked to federal agencies to determine an applicant's eligibility for insurance, remained in operation during the outage of the other parts of the site, she said.

Bataille repeated the HHS message that the site may not work perfectly on Dec. 1. "As we've said before, it is likely that as we move forward we'll find additional glitches and experience intermittent periods of suboptimal performance," she said.

A tech team working on fixing the website, troubled with crashes and slow response times since its Oct. 1 launch, is working around the clock to meet the Nov. 30 deadline, Bataille said. Call center workers helping people enroll in insurance coverage will not work Thursday, the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S., she said.

The tech team made several software fixes focused on improving user experience and the coverage enrollment process, Bataille said. The team also added storage capacity in a CMS data center, she said.

"As we move forward, the vast majority of users will not experience the slow response times, error messages and system outages that characterized their experience in October," Bataille said.

The goal of the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare, is to allow U.S. residents without health insurance coverage to purchase inexpensive plans through the site or by other means.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is grant_gross@idg.com.



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