More than 800,000 visitors gave the hobbled Obamacare website another chance Monday as the government continued to work on software repairs, including a fix to the system that sends customer data to insurers.
The rush yesterday to Healthcare.gov followed a Dec. 1 report saying that six weeks of work had improved its use for most consumers. The administration also said it would name a new chief to run the U.S. exchange after Jeffrey Zients, who has overseen repairs of the online marketplace, becomes the presidents chief economic adviser in January.
The websites software initially prevented Social Security numbers from being included in data sent to insurers, blocking complete enrollments in health plans. A fix announced Monday will end 80% of those errors, said Julie Bataille, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Bataille wouldnt say when the bug was discovered, and insurers didnt immediately report improvement in the data.
We believe that we have fixed the largest percentage of issues that were causing concerns with the federal websites communication with insurers, Bataille said Monday on a conference call. Still, we do know that things are not perfect with the site.
Federal officials said they are continuing to work on improvements for the U.S. website that serves 36 states. Zients, meanwhile, is scheduled to begin his main job as President Barack Obamas chief economic adviser early next year, when a successor will take over as the public face of the federal exchange, White House press secretary Jay Carney said.
We have seen in the way that Jeff has worked in that role, that, that kind of management position needs to be filled even after he comes over to the White House, Carney said.
Carney said he didnt know how the structure of the position may change after Zients leaves. Obama allies outside the White House including Ezekiel Emanuel, who advised him during debate on the health care law, have said the president should name a chief executive officer to lead the federal health insurance exchange.
Healthcare.gov was designed to help uninsured Americans buy new health plans by March 31, as required under the Affordable Care Act. While 106,185 people were able to select private plans through the federal and state exchanges last month, almost 1 million more abandoned the application process before choosing a plan amid website outages and software problems.
It also wasnt clear if insurers were getting better data as a result of the governments effort. Each night, Healthcare.gov is supposed to send a batch of new enrollments to the insurers. While these so-called 834 files have long been an industry standard in the private sector, the ones sent previously from the Obamacare exchange were often missing data or corrupted to the point that they couldnt be opened.
Bataille told reporters she had no information about what percentage of 834 transactions are erroneous or how many transmissions the federal enrollment system had made.
Health plans continue to experience significant problems with the 834 enrollment files, Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for Americas Health Insurance Plans, the industrys Washington-based lobby group, said in an e-mail.
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