Program management gears up for last-minute surge screen shot from October 2013

As an important enrollment deadline approaches, the tech team working on is taking steps to avoid the bottlenecks that plagued the site in the weeks after its October 2013 debut.

The initial open-enrollment period for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act is set to end March 31, with some exceptions. As the deadline approaches, the tech team responsible for fixing the site after its disastrous Oct. 1, 2013, launch has been adding capacity in anticipation of a surge of users to equal or exceed the traffic seen at the December deadline for January coverage. is now equipped to handle 100,000 concurrent users thanks to a final round of hardware upgrades, said Kurt DelBene, the former Microsoft executive who took over leadership of the tech team after Jeffrey Zients left the posting to take a White House job.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently renewed a cloud-hosting agreement with Verizon Terremark for a possible seven-month period to maintain performance of as the site transitions to hosting by Hewlett-Packard. That transition was originally supposed to take place at the end of the enrollment period but has been delayed.

Traffic to the site is rising. CMS reported 1.2 million visits to on March 25 and said that visits to the Spanish-language version of the site were up 45 percent, though those traffic numbers were not released.

To accommodate the expected crush of visitors, CMS has created what DelBene calls an advanced queuing system that will manage traffic overloads. Users can choose to be notified via email when there is room in the system for them to enroll, or they can wait in a virtual waiting room for their turn to sign up.

There are significant exceptions to the March 31 deadline. Users who created an account on and attest that they unable to complete enrollment because of technical problems or lack of access to the site will be permitted to complete applications after the deadline with coverage retroactive to April 1. There are additional categories of exceptions for a death in the family and other personal issues.

Enrollees who check a box on the website attesting to qualifying for an exception will have until mid-April to complete their applications. There does not appear to be a mechanism for evaluating the truth or falsity of such claims; applicants are essentially on their honor.

Beginning April 1, visitors to will see new information about the end of the open-enrollment period, according to a CMS spokesperson.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy, health IT and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mr. Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian started his career as an arts reporter and critic, and has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, Architect magazine, and other publications. He was an editorial assistant and staff writer at the now-defunct New York Press and arts editor at the online network in the 1990s, and was a weekly contributor of music and film reviews to the Washington Times from 2007 to 2014.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


  • Shutterstock image: looking for code.

    How DOD embraced bug bounties -- and how your agency can, too

    Hack the Pentagon proved to Defense Department officials that outside hackers can be assets, not adversaries.

  • Shutterstock image: cyber defense.

    Why PPD-41 is evolutionary, not revolutionary

    Government cybersecurity officials say the presidential policy directive codifies cyber incident response protocols but doesn't radically change what's been in practice in recent years.

  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group