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Three things we learned from today’s Obamacare update

Every day, usually around 2 p.m. or so, the Center for Medicare 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 today!

(REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi)
(Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters)

"The system will not work perfectly on December 1 but will operate much better than it did in October." That was Julie Bataille, Medicare spokeswoman, explaining what to expect from after we get past the Nov. 30 deadline. This is in line with how the administration has previously de-emphasized their self-imposed deadline of having the Web site work for the vast majority of users come the end of the month. Underscoring that point, Bataille said that the Medicare press office is not planning to hold a media call on Thanksgiving day, nor should reporters "anticipate any call over the weekend."

CMS' tech team will, however, be working 24/7 through Thanksgiving.

The site had an unexpected outage for one hour Sunday afternoon. The site was also down for routine maintenance from Saturday evening through Sunday morning. "The tech team quickly addressed the issue," Bataille said. "The federal data hub remained fully operational." Bataille said that, as more fixes are implemented, "We'll likely find additional glitches. We expect to see intermittent periods where [] is slow."

Mum is the word on 834 transmissions. Back when Jeff Zients came on board with Health and Human Services, he described fixing the 834 transmissions — the files that insurance plans get sent when someone signs up — as the very top item on the administration's "punch list." How well HHS is doing on that very important item is, however, difficult to know.

Both myself and another reporter asked questions today about what the error rate was for the 834 transmissions. Here's what I got in response.

"We continue to be in active conversation with the issuers and make sure we understand what they are seeing," Bataille said. "We believe that we have made progress. We know there are still some more things to do and we will report on overall enrollment numbers when we have all of those details available."

When another reporter followed up, pressing on why there was no error rate provided, Bataille followed up that "I can tell you we are making progress improvements to 834. I don't have numbers to share with you, we will have enrollment numbers for you next month."

If we do get an 834 error rate, we'll be sure to share it here.



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Sarah Kliff · November 25, 2013

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