HealthCare.gov error rates going down, consultant says

The website's tech team has fixed more than 200 bugs in the past month, officials say

The technology team working on the troubled HealthCare.gov has made significant progress in recent days, with error rates on the U.S. government's health insurance shopping site down to less than 1 percent from 6 percent just after its launch, officials said Friday.

The tech team has fixed more than 200 bugs at the website in the past month, but it still has 50 high-priority bugs to work on in the next week, said Jeffrey Zients, a former acting director at the White House Office of Management and Budget overseeing fixes to the site.

The tech team completed more than 60 priority improvements and bug fixes during the past week, including new visual guides to help users compare insurance plans, he said.

"The changes and improvements we've made over the past few weeks are having a positive impact on system performance and user experience," Zients said during a press briefing. "For most users, speed and response times were generally good, and error rates were low."

The tech team expects to find more glitches in the site, he added. Even after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Nov. 30 deadline for having the site work well for the majority of users, the tech team will continue to make improvements, he said. The team remains confident it will meet the Nov. 30 deadline, Zients said.

The site's error rate a week ago was about 2 percent, now it's down to less than 1 percent, he said. Many users were unable to navigate the site, launched Oct. 1 as part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act insurance reform, in the first days after launch because of page time-outs and sluggish page-load times.

This weekend, the HealthCare,gov team will work on adding capacity to the site by adding servers, database capacity and storage capacity, Zients said. HealthCare.gov can now generally handle 20,000 to 25,000 concurrent users, he said.

User volume on the site increased significantly in the past week, and that continued to cause some site slowness during peak periods, Zients said.

Page load times for most site users this week were under 1 second, similar to times in recent weeks. In the first days after launch, pages took an average of eight seconds to load. HealthCare.gov, which has crashed several times after its launch, had no unscheduled outages this past week, Zients said.

Also on Friday, the Republican-controlled Energy and Commerce Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives released pieces of emails from project managers saying they were concerned about the site working properly as the Oct. 1 deadline approached.

Julie Bataille, communications director for the HHS Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, downplayed the release, saying it contained "snippets" of a discussion about the project. The Oct. 1 launch of the website was necessary to allow U.S. residents to shop for insurance by deadlines coming next year, she said.

"This is a complex project," she said. "We've been working on a short timeline. Management concerns about meeting timelines and deliverables are expected in any project of this size."

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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