Healthcare.gov Adds Queuing System for Capacity Issues

FierceGovernmentIT

December 4, 2013

The troubled healthcare.gov website now has a queueing system to help it cope with excess capacity.

If someone visits the site while it is at capacity, it will prompt them to enter an email address and then send a message with suggestions for when to try again, said Jeffrey Zients, the Obama administration official overseeing efforts to repair the site. The email will include a link that places the user at the front of the line when he or she attempts to visit the site again.

"There was nothing like this in place in October," Zients said in a press call Dec. 1. The system has not reached capacity since the queueing system was implemented, so it has yet to be deployed, he noted.

Healthcare.gov now supports 50,000 users at once, according to a report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. With the typical user spending 20-30 minutes on the site, it can handle about 800,000 users per day, CMS estimates.

System response time, which took about eight seconds on average in late October, is now below one second, Zients said. The team working on healthcare.gov has fixed hundreds of different bugs in the software since the beginning of October.

Zients attributed much of the improvement to appointing one of the contractors?Columbia, MD-based Quality Software Services, Inc.?as the systems integrator, taking the lead on the repair effort.

The website now works more than 90 percent of the time, the Washington Post reported. The administration's stated goal was for that figure to reach 80 percent by the end of November.

But, as of mid-November, roughly one-third of the entire health insurance exchange system remained unbuilt, said Henry Chao, CMS's deputy chief information officer, during a House hearing Nov. 19. That includes the reconciliation system, through which CMS and health insurers will agree on who is enrolled.

The Post reported in October that the federal exchange was sending inaccurate 834 forms?transmissions that include the enrollment information of consumers?to insurers. Some of the forms were unreadable, while others contained incorrect information. If that data does not transmit properly, consumers who believe they have enrolled may have failed to do so.

During the Dec. 1 press call, Julie Bataille, a CMS spokeswoman, said that 834 form transmission remains a work in progress.

"A number of the fixes that went in place this weekend in particular will significantly address some of the highest priority things that we know were a particular concern with those transaction forms," she said. The administration has been in contact with insurance providers on a daily basis about the problems, she added.

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