Three things we learned from Thursday’s Obamacare update

November 21, 2013

Every day, usually around 2 p.m. or so, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services hosts a half-hour long call on the status of the insurance marketplace. Now, every day, we here at Wonkblog will update you on what the federal government told us about how Obamacare is going. Without further ado, here is what we learned Thursday!

(Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters)
(Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters)

There will be no Thanksgiving/Hannukah/Thanksgivvuah miracle. While the federal government has promised again and again that the Web site will "work smoothly for the vast majority of users" by the end of November, the people doing the fixing don't see this as an especially crucial deadline. In other words: Do not expect a "mission accomplished" banner.

"There is not a corner being turned but continued progress made week by week," Medicare spokeswoman Julie Bataille said. One reporter asked if something would be done to mark the end of the month. "We'll keep you posted," Bataille responded.

HealthCare.gov was down for three hours Wednesday and about 15 minutes Tuesday. This led to the rather unfortunate moment for Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Wednesday, who checked in on a consumer trying to sign up for coverage...only to find that the system was down.

Bataille described this as a problem with "backend functionality" that had something to do with "access within our data center and the connectivity to the network."

Fixes are being made to the 834s but no information yet on the error rate. Bataille said that one fix made Wednesday night improved the accuracy of 834 transmissions, the file the exchange sends to an insurer once someone has signed up for their plan. The fix, Batialle said, had to do with sending insurers accurate information when someone deselects their coverage.

"If an individual makes a selection to cancel a plan that will be accurately conveyed in the 834s," Bataille said.

I asked whether there was an error rate available for the 834 transmissions right now, but Bataille didn't have that at the moment. We'll update here if we get additional information.

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Brian Fung · November 21, 2013