Jeff Zients, chief performance officer and deputy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, was brought in to oversee the faltering federal website that is the online health insurance marketplace for 36 states that chose not to produce a state health insurance marketplace for those whose employers do not supply health insurance.
Friday, in a telephone news conference with reporters Zients said:
"Overall, we've made measurable progress, as the changes and improvements we've made over the last few weeks are having a positive impact on system performance and user experience. The Marketplace system was stable all week, with no unscheduled outages. And for most users, speed and response times were generally good, and error rates were low. In total, we now have crossed more than 200 bug fixes off of our punch list."
Zients said two key measures of the operation of the website HealthCare.gov are response time and error rate.
"Response time is how fast the system responds to user's requests. For the first few weeks after the site was made public Oct. 1, we estimate that users were waiting an average of 8 seconds for pages across the site to load. This past week, average response times for most users remained under 1 second," Zients said.
The other critical metric is the site's error rate, a measure of the frequency, on a per page basis, of system time outs or failures that prevent the user from advancing to the next page or result in users receiving error messages.
"Last Friday, we reported that we had reduced the error rate to 2 percent down from 6 percent a few weeks earlier. This week, by continuing to eliminate glitches and execute software bug fixes, we've driven the error rate down to under 1 percent."
Despite the measurable progress, Zients said there is still a good deal to accomplish, but the bottom line continues to be that by the end of November, the federal government expects the website working smoothly for the vast majority of users.
"We will be bringing additional servers online, as well as additional database capacity and data storage. With these upgrades, we will significantly increase the system's capacity and allow us to maintain good speed and response times at higher volumes," Zients said.
The team will also add visual cues to health insurance plan compare screens to help consumers make the best plan selection; improve direct enrollment functionality to help consumers move back and forth to issuers' websites; and fix a glitch that was preventing some consumers in Pennsylvania from moving through the shopping experience.
For next week, Zients said the team prioritized list of 50 additional fixes and improvements.
"As the president said yesterday, not all consumers going on the website will have a seamless experience. We will continue to improve the site beyond the end of the month," Zients said.
"Most people who use the site will have it operate the way it is supposed to. But it's important to know that even with a well-functioning website, there are going to be people who need additional help due to some complexity in individuals' particular situations or needs, or simply because buying insurance is a big, complicated decision, some will prefer to get assistance in thinking it through."