HealthCare.gov website page features information about the SHOP Marketplace. / Jon Elswick, AP
WASHINGTON The federal health exchange, Healthcare.gov, received 880,000 visitors Dec. 24, the last day people could enroll to receive health coverage on Jan. 1, officials say.
"We're going to do everything we can to ensure a smooth transition period for consumers whose coverage begins on January 1," Julie Bataille wrote in a blog Friday. Bataille serves as director of the office of communications for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. "And we're going to continue to work to ensure every American who still wants to enroll in Marketplace coverage by the end of the open enrollment period is able to do so."
Consumers have until March 31 to enroll on the health insurance exchanges to avoid paying a fine with their 2015 taxes for not having health insurance.
More than a million people visited the site over the weekend, and 600,000 had hit the page by mid-day Monday -- the original deadline for Jan. 1 coverage. The federal page and several state pages allowed people to continue the enrollment process Tuesday as they encountered delays in the system.
Bataille said the system operated smoothly, and that people were placed into a queuing system when necessary that allowed them to leave an email address. When the volume decreased on the website, Health and Human Services contacted those people and sent them to the top of the line at the site.
"There's no question that, over this past weekend, Monday and Tuesday, HealthCare.gov met the mark and did exactly what it was supposed to do -- helping Americans from across the country find secure, quality health insurance coverage at an affordable price," Bataille wrote, adding that response times for the site averaged about half a second, and that page error rates were less than half a percent.
There was concern, after the site's rocky launch, that the federal and state sites would not be able to handle the increased volume as the Dec. 23 deadline approached. However, CMS brought in a team of civilian technology experts to increase the capacity of the site, as well as fix bugs that led to frozen pages and lost applications. By Nov. 30, the government announced the site was working properly.
Bataille said that on Monday, the site handled 83,000 people at a time with the queuing system, and that those in the queue waited less than 10 minutes before receiving an email saying they could go back to the site. About 129,000 people left email addresses after reaching the busy site. Bataille said the site is capable of handling more people, but that they limited it so people would not encounter long wait times for pages to upload.
Tuesday, 880,000 people visited without CMS having to deploy the queuing system, she said. The call center received 317,000 calls Dec. 24.
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Read the original story: 880,000 visited HealthCare.gov on Christmas Eve