Health Care

Obamacare Site Is Working Slightly Less Badly


The HealthCare.gov insurance exchange Internet site on Oct. 1

Photograph by Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

The HealthCare.gov insurance exchange Internet site on Oct. 1

The Democrats and contractors who brought you Obamacare are willing to admit the obvious: that the rollout of the health insurance exchange websites was a disaster. But in an hearing of the House’s Committee on Energy and Commerce Thursday, there were also modest reminders that things are be getting better.

“I just went on my iPad, and I was able to access the choices of plans to my constituents in California,” said Representative Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) during Thursday’s hearings, making his point while also tipping his hand about what he does during Congressional hearings.

An analysis by research group ComScore released Thursday shows bad but improving performance. The group says that traffic to healthcare.gov has fallen off dramatically in the past several weeks, but that people are getting it to work much more often. In the first week, 5.3 million people accessed the site, but only 2 percent of them could log in. By the third week, 22 percent could log in. Still, fewer than 6 percent of people who accessed the site created an account, complete an application, and began browsing through plans.

You could interpret the dive in traffic as a vote of no confidence in the website. On the other hand, it also mirrors natural human behavior. With any new service like this, there will be two spikes in interest: when it first comes available and the moment before the deadline. The lull in between is the time to get things fixed, and the administration is buying itself some time by extending the deadline.

Before diving into Thursday’s hearty round of the blame game, Fred Upton (R-Mich.), the chairman of the committee, noted that all this activity wasn’t even what Congress was supposed to be fighting about. “Frankly,” he said, “the website should have been the easy part.”

Brustein is a writer for Businessweek.com in New York.

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