Updates on the ObamaCare Website (HealthCare.Gov)

The official ObamaCare website, healthcare.gov, got off to a rocky start. The ObamaCare website is the site you’ll use to sign up for health insurance. In order for things to go smoothly the site had to have been functioning properly by December 23rd 2013. Luckily a December 1st, 2013 “fix” has the site working smoothly allowing at least 50,000 users on at a time and 800,000 or more in a day. By December 24th over a million Americans had enrolled in plans through the marketplace and 800,000 Americans signed up for Medicaid. By the end of January the number rose to over 3 million in Federal and State marketplaces combined.

By the end of open enrollment 2014 almost 8 million got covered through the marketplace alone. By December over 10 million signed up for the marketplace successfully. Don’t let the security talking points scare you away form missing your chance to find affordable health insurance.

Below you’ll find some basic information about healthcare.gov, applying for and enrolling in health insurance though the site, and an update report on the status of the official ObamaCare website.

Obamacare website

Before the website was fixed in December of 2013 a lot of Americans would report that “the ObamaCare website is down”, resulting in many frustrated Americans not able to apply for the marketplace or enroll in a plan. Today many of the websites issues have been solved and as many as 50,000 shoppers can use the site at one time.

how to sign up for health insuranceSigning Up for the ObamaCare Website

You might be wondering about the ObamaCare website’s security, thinking, “should I sign up for the ObamaCare website? Is it secure?”

The ObamaCare website, healthcare.gov, isn’t without technical issues and isn’t hacker proof (of course neither are any of the other websites you would trust with your personal information). However, as of December 1st, 2013 most of the technical issues and any security concerns have been worked out.

The bottom line is healthcare.gov was built with security in mind from day one and includes many protections, with more being implemented every day.

Update: The December 1st, 2013 seems to have worked out all of the major technical issues and Americans are now able to use the site.

If you need health insurance, we suggest you sign up. Find your State’s Health Insurance Marketplace now.

You Don’t Need to Use the Website to Get Health Insurance

If you make more than 400% of the Federal Poverty Level you don’t need to use the marketplace, since you aren’t eligible for subsidies. You can go directly through a Provider Or A Broker, and find out your options outside the marketplace. Many brokers and providers can sign you up for a marketplace plan too, but they also rely on the website functioning correctly to do so.

If you don’t want to use the site for any reason, and need health insurance for 2014, you can get subsidized marketplace health insurance a number of other ways aside from directly using the website to find coverage.

ObamaCare Website Facts

Let’s take a quick look at some of the facts about the official ObamaCare website (healthcare.gov) and signing up for health insurance for 2014.

• When we talk about number of folks that signed up, that is different then those who enrolled, and is different from folks covered under the ACA. Learn more about how sign-ups are calculated.

Healthcare.gov was set up for State’s who didn’t set up their own marketplace. If you live in California, New York, Indiana, Washington, or one of the States that did set up their own health insurance marketplace you don’t have to rely on healthcare.gov to sign up for insurance. Find your State’s Health Insurance Marketplace now.

• Despite the ObamaCare website’s technical issues, many Americans have been able to sign up for the website and a percentage of those Americans have been able to enroll in a subsidized health insurance plan through the site as well. Even some customers who experienced issues with the site have been able to enroll using a mix of other sign up methods.

• You can also sign up for the marketplace by mailing in an online application (read these instructions first), get in person help, or call the 24/7 helpline (800) 318-2596.

• You can go through a broker or a directly through a provider to sign up for subsidized insurance plans offered on the marketplace in some States. Although they rely on the ObamaCare website to sign you up, in some State’s these providers already have effective work arounds. Learn more about other ways to sign up for health insurance.

• The Mandate to obtain “minimum essential coverage” (AKA most types of private or public health insurance including Medicare and employer based coverage) includes a 3 month coverage gap exemption. This means that you can be without insurance for 3 months in 2014 and have your fee waived. There are many other types of exemptions, such as insurance being unaffordable too. Learn more about the Individual Mandate.

• For many Americans “ObamaCare” is all about getting health insurance for their family, but the law itself does so much more to address the “US healthcare crisis” i.e. the affordability, availability, and quality of health insurance and healthcare in the United States. Take a moment to check out a summary of each provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act so you can know what is in it for yourself or get a quick breakdown of ObamaCare’s new benefits, rights and protections.

Status of the ObamaCare Website

Below will will provide up-to-date coverage of the status of the official ObamaCare website. This will include information about new “fixes”, delays, and other news associated with the website:

• It’s December of 2014 and it’s estimated that over 10 million have signed up for the marketplace and the website has been running smoothly since July.

• In July of 2014 a test server was uploaded with “denial of service” malware (a DDOS attack) in order to overload the server with traffic – a practice “so common that it’s attempted 28 different times every hour.” The healthcare.gov site itself was unharmed. The site wasn’t specifically targeted and no consumer information was transmitted, nor was there any attempt to steal data.

• As of April 17th 8 million have enrolled in the marketplace.

• As of March 17th over 5 million Americans have enrolled in private health plans through the State and Federal marketplaces and even more have enrolled in Medicaid. This number doesn’t include those who enrolled in programs like Medicare or enrolled outside of the marketplace.

• As of February 26th 4 million Americans in private health plans through the State and Federal marketplaces. The CBO had projected 7 million sign ups by the end of open enrollment March 31st, 2014.

• The official HHS report is out. As of January 24th over 3 million Americans have enrolled in private health plans through the State and Federal marketplaces. Don’t wait until the last minute to sign up and enroll in a plan on your state’s marketplace.

• By December 24th over a million Americans had enrolled in plans through the marketplace and 800,000 Americans signed up for Medicaid.

• The month of December has been mostly free of any issues with website security or front-end technical issues.

• Although many issues with the front end of the site are fixed there are still some “back-end” issues. Back-end problems such as insurers struggling to process applications because of incomplete or inaccurate data are still stopping some shoppers, who believed they provided complete information, short of enrollment.

• A new queue system was implemented on December 2nd, 2013 that stalls new visitors on a waiting page when necessary so that those further along in the process can finish their application with fewer problems.

• Although the site is not “glitch free” it should be able to handle more than 800,000 visitors a day. Over 750,000 visitors were able to use the site on Monday December 2nd, 2013 alone.

• The site is now online more than 90 percent of the time, not including scheduled downtime for maintenance.

• A new queuing system was added to the site. If high spikes in traffic exceed the site’s capacity, consumers will be put in a new, advanced queuing system that will give them an expected wait time, or allow them to be notified via when they can return to the site.

• Obama recently said he’d consider a “fix” to be successful if 80 percent of the people are able to navigate the site without a major problem.

• HealthCare.gov has increased the site’s capacity, boosting it to a level of 50,000. This should eliminate some of the issues with servers crashing due to capacity.

• Obama administration officials said Saturday November 30, 2013 that the site had “performed well” after initial testing and that  upgrades overnight Friday had improved response times and reduced errors. The site was taken offline between 9 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m. Eastern time Saturday, in addition to its regular maintenance window, which falls between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. Eastern time Sunday. The true test will come this week as Americans getting back from Thanksgiving vacation will attempt to apply for the marketplace and enroll in a plan.

• The current deadline for the ObamaCare website to be “fixed” is December 1st, 2013.

• You had until December 24rd, 2013 to sign up for health insurance that starts January 1st, 2014. This date was pushed back from December 17th to December 23rd and then to December 24th.

• Part of the solution for the website is ensuring brokers and insurance providers have a way to sign up people in subsidized “qualified health plans” since they can sign you up in plans they offer on your States marketplace.

• As of November 1st there are still “a couple of hundred” problems with the site.

• The ObamaCare website, healthcare.gov, launched on October 1st, 2013. Although many people were able to sign up the site was plagued by technical problems taking the focus away from the many successful aspects of the law and other State’s marketplace (like Washington State’s wahealthplanfinder.org) which launched without much of a hitch.

Follow https://twitter.com/HealthCareGov and get the latest status updates on the site yourself.

ObamaCare Website Problems

Let’s take a look at some of the problems with the ObamaCare website so we know what they are and why they need fixing.

• The website was contracted out to many different firms leading to some issues. CGI one of the main developers has had a long history of botching tech jobs (read more about CGI here).

• Part of the issue with the website was that the servers couldn’t handle all the traffic. The strong interest in the site led to constant crashes.

ObamaCare website security

When the ObamaCare website was launched there were a few security flaws that gave access to partial bits of account information. These issues were fixed immediately. The security issues and technical issues have been incrementally improving, but many don’t feel it’s happening fast enough.

ObamaCare Website Security Myths

While valid concerns the security of the ObamaCare website have been voiced, there has been a lot of rhetoric coming from opponents of the law who wish to scare people off from using the marketplace. This tactic is meant to deter those who would get a better deal on health insurance and thus perhaps see the law in a more favorable light and to dissuade people from using the site hindering the success of the program by keeping sign-ups low. We have done extensive research and can’t find any valid security concerns beyond those addressed on this page. We urge you to ignore the rhetoric and feel secure in signing up for your State’s marketplace. http://www.factcheck.org/2013/12/eric-cantors-security-scare/

ObamaCare Website Security

Questions about the security of the ObamaCare website and potential HIPPA violations have been prevalent since the launch of the site. Since the marketplaces don’t ask you for health related information the HIPPA related security issues have been largely dismissed as a talking point. However, with 500 million lines of code (more than 20 times as much as Facebook and nearly 10 times as much as Microsoft Windows 8) the issue of security is a valid concern. Let’s take a look at some of the facts about the ObamaCare websites security:

• If you have heard of a specific security flaw (and a few have been found already) it’s already been fixed.

• The site was built with security in mind. They use a high level of encryption. If a security incident occurs, an Incident Response capability would be activated, which allows for the tracking, investigation, and reporting of incidents.

• Individual components of the system had been tested as the site was built but the government did not conduct “end-to-end testing” of the whole system until late September 2013.

• Healthcare.gov, the State marketplaces, banks, car insurance websites, and any other type of website that asks for your personal information is always at risk. There is no such thing as a completely secure system.

• Due to the sheer amount of code, doing a complete security review of the site could take as long as six months, however security issues are being addressed consistently and updates are being made to make the system more secure.

• Healthcare.gov site uses a common form of encryption called Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), which prevents information from being intercepted by a hacker after you click “send”. SSL doesn’t defend against most clickjacking, but a fix for this is pretty simple. Other State marketplaces use the same type of encryption, so they will have to implement the fix as well. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/10/obamacare-healthcare-gov-hacked-clickjacking

• Regardless of where you get health insurance you’ll need to provide personal information during the sign up process, be it through healthcare.gov or any other avenue whenever you put your personal information in someone else’s hands security concerns do arise. However, this shouldn’t stop anyone from obtaining health insurance.

The Verdict: The ObamaCare website, healthcare.gov, is about as safe as anything else to use, so if you need insurance by all means sign up (remember you can still apply with a mail in form, in person, or speak to someone at the call center for assistance). The website is not hacker proof and nor are many of the other sites Americans trust with their personal information. The December 1st, 2013 fix to the site has addressed most issues keeping Americans from signing up for the site.

The Cost of the ObamaCare Website

You may have heard the ObamaCare website cost anywhere from 100 million to a billion dollars. This is because depending on what costs you include you’ll get wildly different figures. The actual cost of the website itself is closer to the 100 million dollar figure and is reported as low as 68 million. See this article for more information: http://mediamatters.org/blog/2013/10/24/the-myth-of-the-634-million-obamacare-website/196585

ObamaCare Website 2014

The true test of the ObamaCare websites success isn’t about problems out of the starting gate it’s about the ability of Americans to enroll in plans in an effective and secure way ensuring coverage for 2014. If issues persist the mandate to have insurance will have to be pushed back and that means less funding for the law. Since the US budget relies on this funding continued issues could cause some big issues for the US. Please keep checking back for updates on healthcare.gov.