More than 7.3 million seniors have been helped to buy prescription drugs, saving $8.9bn or $1,200 on average
Bernita Jackson, 51, has her blood pressure measured at an event to inform people about the Affordable Care Act in Los Angeles, California, November 25, 2013.
White House officials have introduced an electronic queuing system to their troubled health insurance exchange as they stress that improvements will continue after this weekend’s deadline for fixing the website.
With only two working days to go before the self-imposed target date of December 1, Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary, reassured state and local politicians on Tuesday that the administration would meet promised standards in time.
“We are now eight weeks into open enrolment; we are definitely on track to have a significantly different user experience by the end of this month,” she said.
“I would urge you and your folks on the ground not to hesitate to recommend that people go to healthcare.gov and get signed up, because that experience is currently working much better and will continue to work much better.”
But she hinted that tweaks would be required in the weeks leading up to an extended deadline for insurance enrolment under the Affordable Care Act on December 23.
“This isn’t a magic ‘on’ switch; the experience is vastly improved each and every day. We’ve added hardware, we’ve added software, we’ve continued to work on parts of the website that were too confusing for people,” Sebelius said.
“Well beyond December 1, those improvements will continue. We’ve got feedback on a regular basis from user experiences, we want to continue to update this.”
Her comments came as White House officials revealed that despite increases in the site’s capacity to handle simultaneous users, they had quietly introduced a system to handle those who continued to hit problems.
“The other important development that’s gotten a little bit less attention is they have also put in place a queuing system,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Monday.
“If there are more than 50,000 people trying to use the website, individuals can choose to receive an email when the traffic on the website has been reduced, and that email will basically give them a link, and if you click on the link you can jump to the front of the line to access the website.”
When problems first began hitting the website in October, officials introduced a “virtual waiting room” but dropped the idea, admitting it was “confusing” after it attracted ridicule from critics who claimed it was a taste of things to come when insurers started rationing care.
The administration insists its queuing system is just a precaution and that updates have fixed the problems which forced many customers in the “waiting room”.
“There’s been steady improvement in the speed of the website; the rate at which individual pages on the site load is now less than one second. That is down from six or eight seconds when the website was first rolled out,” added Earnest.
“The error rate has also been driven down significantly to below 1%; again, when the website was rolled out, the error rate was up around 6%, a level that’s entirely unacceptable.”
In the public relations battle to shift opinion of the reforms, the White House also released fresh data on Tuesday showing other ways that the Affordable Care Act was helping people.
The updated numbers showed 7.3 million seniors have now been helped to buy prescription drugs through the Affordable Care Act, saving $8.9bn or just over $1,200 on average.
Earnest claimed this was “a key benefit of the ACA and, again, an example of one of the important things that would be repealed if Republicans in Congress had their way.”
Posted By Mantosh Pal