Should Be Fixed This Weekend, but Don’t All Sign Up at Once

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Fixes to the Affordable Care Act website, which launched in a spectacularly dismal fashion on October 1, should be in place by a self-imposed November 30 deadline, according to Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “We are definitely on track to have a significantly different user experience by the end of this month - that was our commitment - than people experienced on October 1,” said Sebelius on Tuesday, adding that officials should “not hesitate to recommend that people go to and get signed up because that experience is currently working much better and it will continue to work much better."

But Sebelius’ confidence may not be shared by others in the White House, who fear the site won’t be able to handle the flood of users expected to seek enrollment on Saturday and in the weeks leading up December 23, the last day to sign up for coverage that begins on January 1. According to The New York Times, government officials urged groups like the Service Employees International Union and Enroll America, who have committed to help direct Americans to the site, to hold off on promoting the re-launch for now. Other officials, like repair manager Jeffrey D. Zients, worked on managing the public’s expectations. From the Times:

“The system will not work perfectly,” Jeffrey D. Zients, who took over management of the website repair effort, told reporters on Friday. He said the site would be able to handle 50,000 users, but added, “To be clear, there will be times that volume on will exceed this capacity.”... In an effort to ease pressure on the website, officials have created what they call a waiting room for times when the site is operating slowly. People can ask the government to notify them by email of a better time to use the site, and they will then go to the front of the line, officials said.

President Obama’s political opponents, who shut down the government earlier this year over the health care plan, have reacted with glee to the website’s problems and seized on stories of individuals losing their previous health care plans due to the problematic rollout. President Obama, in addition to issuing a not-very-tech-savvy mea culpa for the site’s glitches, has apologized to those affected, and worked to keep vulnerable Americans from falling through the cracks.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.