Jeffrey Zients, a former administration official selected by the White House to assess the extent of the online marketplace’s problems, told reporters the site is “fixable.” But he offered a sobering picture of the problems left to tackle, saying there are dozens of issues on a “punch list” that need to be addressed.
More than 100 items are on the list, according to a person who is knowledgeable about the project and who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the information is not public.
At the top of the list, Zients said, are the erroneous reports the system sends to insurance companies. Also of concern is that at times, three of 10 users are unable to complete the enrollment process, he said.
“It will take a lot of work, and there are a lot of problems that need to be addressed,” he said. “But let me be clear: HealthCare.gov is fixable.”
The remarks by Zients are the most extensive public comments from the administration about the scope of the problems plaguing the Web site, established as a centerpiece of the president’s health-care law.
HealthCare.gov is the main portal for uninsured people in 36 states — the other states are running their own online insurance marketplaces — to buy coverage and get subsidies to help with their premiums. Starting next year, most Americans must carry health insurance or face a fine.
Insurers and consumer advocates say the Nov. 30 deadline for repairs is cutting it close, because people who want coverage that begins Jan. 1 must sign up by Dec. 15. The first of the year is when many of the health-care law’s benefits kick in, including a rule that bans insurance companies from rejecting people for preexisting conditions.
Even if the site is fixed, there could be a huge crush of people enrolling in those last few weeks, requiring insurers to generate bills and insurance cards in a short time frame.
“Most people who are going to change their insurance are going to want to do it by mid-December,” said Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), a supporter of the health-care law who has been critical of the way the Web site was handled. “Obviously, time is of the essence here.”
Those who do not sign up for coverage by March 31 could incur a penalty.
The site crashed shortly after its launch, preventing people from signing up for accounts — a prerequisite to shop for coverage. Zients said that initial problem is mostly fixed, with 90 percent of people now able to complete the account-creation process.