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Government's Affordable Care Act website getting five times more users

Oct. 7, 2013 at 2:11 AM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Oct. 7 (UPI) -- The U.S. chief technology officer said the government expected its healthcare reform's website to draw 50,000-60,000 users at once, but traffic has hit 250,000.

Todd Park said the federal website -- HealthCare.gov, which serves as the marketplace for 36 states and last Tuesday began signing people up for private health insurance or expanded Medicaid -- was overwhelmed by up to five times as many users as it was designed to handle, USA Today reported.

Many people have complained the website has taken hours to log onto, or once access is gained, freezes or provides an error message.

Park said the website's problems stem from the volume of people attempting to access information on private health insurance plans and possible government subsidies for those who make $94,000 a year or less.

The White House said more than 8 million consumers visited the website HealthCare.gov from Tuesday through Friday, while it expects 7 million consumers overall to eventually will sign up for health insurance via the government marketplace website in 2014.

The Obama administration built the website's capacity based partly on the all-time high of 30,000 simultaneous users for Medicare.gov, an existing site where senior citizens can buy or renew prescription-drug plans under Medicare Part D, Park said. However, this website theoretical maximum capacity wasn't disclosed.

However, David Brailer, former national coordinator of healthcare information technology, who tried to get doctors and hospitals to put patient medical records via computer during the administration of George W. Bush, said whoever said HealthCare.go would draw 60,000 people at one time wasn't reading the press releases concerning the Affordable Care Act.

"The Medicare Part D site was supposed to have 20,000 simultaneous users and was [built for] 150,000, and that was back when computing was done on an abacus -- 10 years ago," he told USA Today. "It isn't that hard."

Healthcare.gov is managed by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and is hosted at a secure, privately owned cloud computing facility in Virginia.

Cloud-based technology is supposed to have the flexibility to allow website owners to adjust quickly to spikes in traffic, but in reality, it was more complex than just adding more computer servers to manage the extra demand, Park said.

However, changes being made to add extra computing power and software upgrades are supposed to make the process of buying healthcare insurance -- which goes into effect on Jan. 1 -- work more smoothly this week, Park said.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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