“This is a question of volume and demand exceeding anything that people anticipated,” said White House strategist David Simas, who is helping to oversee the law’s implementation. “I am confident people are working through these issues. . . . It is steady improvement.”
Rep. Robert E. Andrews (D-N.J.), who played a key role in passing the health-care law and has worked on its implementation, said he told White House officials early this summer he had been hearing from insurers that the online system had flaws.
“Nothing I told them ever surprised them,” Andrews said in an interview. “The White House has acknowledged all along something this massive was going to have implementation problems.”
Two allies of the administration, both of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the controversy surrounding the rollout, said they approached White House officials this year to raise concerns that the federal exchange was not ready to launch. In both cases, Obama officials assured them there was no cause for alarm.
Robert Laszewski, a health-care consultant with clients in the insurance industry, said insurers were complaining loudly that the site, www.healthcare.gov, was not working smoothly during frequent teleconferences with officials at the Department of Health and Human Services before the exchange’s launch and afterward. “People were pulling out their hair,” he said.
One senior administration official, who requested anonymity to describe the internal White House discussions, said the administration was prepared to encounter some challenges with the launch, “but we had a lot more traffic than we thought, and so discovered problems managing that load.”
Administration officials continued Tuesday to decline to say how many people have gone through all the steps to pick a health plan through the Web site. They said they would give a monthly tally, probably starting in mid-November.
Last week, HHS and White House officials gave updates on the number of people who had logged onto the site, noting that 8.6 million unique visitors had logged on in the first three days and up to 250,000 were on at one time. On Tuesday, an HHS official said that “an extraordinary number of people are coming to check out” the Web site, without offering specifics.