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Health Website Load Times Improve 80%

4:47 PM, Nov 1, 2013   |    comments
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Kelly Kennedy, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON - During the first few weeks of Healthcare.gov's launch, people waited an average of eight seconds for each page to load.

As of yesterday, they're waiting less than one second, the Obama administration reported Friday.

"This is more than an 80% improvement," said Jeffrey Zients, the former Office of Management and Budget deputy director brought in to manage the site's upgrades.

Zients said there were both roadblocks and progress this week.

"We're on a path to improve Healthcare.gov each week and to meet our target by the end of November," he said in a briefing with reporters.

Dedicated teams are monitoring software and infrastructure issues, he said. They're addressing software glitches, minimizing outages, ensuring the system is secure, and analyzing the system to see what else needs to be done.

He called outages Monday and Wednesday - caused by hardware problems at Verizon - frustrating but said that has been fixed and an upgrade will be installed over the weekend to ensure it doesn't happen again. He said those outages were an obstacle because they distracted engineers from other issues with the site.

"The hardware failure was a setback and very frustrating," he said. Still, "the site works better today for users than it did a week ago."

The briefing followed news of a new poll that found that while Americans aren't happy about the implementation of the federal insurance website, it hasn't changed their overall opinion of the Affordable Care Act.

That's not necessarily great news for the Obama administration, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, which conducted the poll: 44% said they don't like the law; 38% said they do; and 18% still say they just don't know what to think -- which is pretty close to how they felt before the website launched.

The poll, conducted Oct. 17 through Oct. 23, comes after a month filled with apologies, hearings focused on where to place the blame, and taunts about the government's inability to launch a program meant to make applying for health insurance easier.

About half said the government has done a "poor" job of implementing the law, and the percentage goes up to 60% for those who have paid attention to the website launch.

That doesn't mean everyone's paying attention: While 44% said they followed the government shutdown, about 22% say they've paid attention to the problems with the website.

Uninsured Americans have from now until March 31 to enroll through the federal or state exchanges or face a fine at tax time for not having insurance. The websites bring in several private insurance companies, allowing consumers to compare plan benefits and prices in an apples-to-apples way. But upon the federal site's launch Oct. 2, people were met with error messages, frozen pages and notifications that the site was busy.

Since then, Health and Human Services has brought in Zients to oversee repairs, shut down the site at night for maintenance, brought in people from Google and Red Hat to fix glitches, and assigned contractor QSSI to coordinate the efforts.

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