Can you fix a car even when it’s moving at a speed of 5 miles an hour?
That’s what the Obamacare tech surge is supposed to do, even though the website has been crashing during the process.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius vowed again on Wednesday to have the troubled Healthcare.gov fixed and smoothly running by the end of November.
Despite the administration’s all-out effort to overhaul the online system, continuous problems with the website’s main data hub are threatening to jeopardize the re-launch date.
For the second time in four days, the data services “hub” that is central to agencies' ability to exchange information on insurance applicants was down Wednesday night, due to technical problems with Verizon Communications’ Terremark unit.
The hub lost connectivity late Saturday night and all day Sunday after workers tried to replace a broken networking component. The hub went down again Tuesday night and was still not functioning until Thursday morning, according to officials of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency overseeing the program.
Without the hub operational, HealthCare.gov remained out of service, and there was no way for consumers to enroll in the federal exchange online or for the government and insurance companies to verify incomes, since the tool that determines the subsidy eligibility of people applying for health coverage was inoperable.
CMS is still trying to determine what caused the outages, which have paralyzed both the federal and state-run exchanges.
But the outages aren’t just slowing down the Healthcare.gov; they are slowing down the administration’s ability to fix the other problems that have plagued the website since its launch on Oct 1.
Due to the outages, CMS has not yet been able to address the top issues on its “punch list” of fixes, including bad data transactions between the website and insurers. That one has resulted in duplicate certificates or spouses being listed as children, according to Julie Bataille, communications director for CMS.
Last Friday, Jeffrey Zients, the former White House budget director who was tapped to lead the repair efforts, said on a call to reporters that the website was “fixable” and would be fully functioning on Nov. 30.
On the same call, CMS officials said that QSSI, part of UnitedHealthCare Group - the federal contractor tasked with overseeing the repair effort - was doing a “good job” in supporting the federal data hub.
The next night, the data hub crashed.
This story was updated at 2:36 p.m.