The Obama Administration is bringing in software experts from inside and outside government in what it calls a tech surge to fix the ailing online health insurance marketplace HealthCare.gov, officials said in a blog post Sunday.
The move comes nearly three weeks after the site’s rocky launch, after which less than 1% of online insurance seekers successfully enrolled in a plan. It comes less than one week after the end of a partial government shutdown that put at least some of those experts out of work and on furlough status.
Among those selected for the team is U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park, a former healthcare software entrepreneur and Health and Human Services Department CTO who was involved in the early stages of building HealthCare.gov, according to a report from Bloomberg News. It also includes some Presidential Innovation Fellows, a short-term program for tech entrepreneurs to pitch in on specific government projects that Park helped spearhead, Bloomberg reported.
All of the innovation fellows were furloughed during the shutdown.
HHS didn’t immediately respond to a Nextgov question late Sunday about what other departments and agencies are being tapped for help.
HealthCare.gov is a major component of President Obama’s landmark healthcare reform law. The site was designed to connect uninsured people in 36 states with easy-to-read comparisons of available insurance plans in their areas. The site also provides underlying data for 14 state-run insurance exchanges and the District of Columbia exchange.
President Obama is expected to address the troubled launch during a White House event Monday afternoon, the Washington Post reported.
Sunday’s blog post was the fullest explanation from the administration to date of what went wrong with HealthCare.gov and what the government has done to fix it, though it was still short on many details. Government software engineers have been working around the clock to fix software glitches that prevented people from registering with the site and from logging back into the site after they’d registered and received a confirmation email, HHS said.
An independent study by the market research firm Millward Brown Digital found that, as of Oct. 5, only 271,000 HealthCare.gov visitors made it past those two steps out of 9.47 million who visited the site. Not all of those people were frustrated by software glitches, Millward Brown noted, because some were directed to state-run insurance exchanges.
The government has also added extra server capacity to handle a larger-than-expected volume of visitors since HealthCare.gov’s launch, HHS said.
The initial consumer experience of HealthCare.gov has not lived up to the expectations of the American people, the agency said. We are committed to doing better.
The HHS blog post also included a comment form for people to sound off about their experience with the website. Comments posted to the form were not publicly visible.
A separate blog post directly on the HealthCare.gov site listed improvements made since the site’s launch. Those include the ability to preview health insurance plans without filling out a form and an improved calculator to see if applicants qualify for lower cost premiums.
Officials have not said how many people have enrolled in insurance plans through the federal website. HealthCare.gov has had 19 million unique visitors so far, HHS said.
Image:Official White House Photoby Amanda Lucidon
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This article originally published at Nextgov
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