Citizen Services

Healthcare.gov relaunches, prepares for ACA open enrollment

medical bill

The Department of Health and Human Services re-launched its site aimed at providing customized insurance policy information to the public, some three months before the open enrollment period mandated by the Affordable Care Act. Currently, HealthCare.gov contains answers to frequently asked policy questions and a 24-hour call center.

Users will be able to apply and browse specific coverage plans based on factors – such as age and family status – starting when open enrollment begins Oct. 1. The site covers policy information for small business owners, people who are self-employed and families, among others.

"The re-launched Healthcare.gov and new call center will help consumers prepare for the new coverage opportunities coming later this year," said Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner, according to an HHS announcement. "In October, HealthCare.gov will be the online destination for consumers to compare and enroll in affordable, qualified health plans."

Buildout on the new site began in late March, and dispensed with a content management system in favor of a flat-file, GitHub-based solution. "Security people love flat files," said Dave Cole, the former White House deputy director of new media, who now works for DevelopmentSeed and is helping to manage the HealthCare.gov project. "And you really don't encounter scale issues."

Cole told FCW in an April interview that the flat-file approach has allowed HHS to drop down from 32 servers for the original HealthCare.gov site to just two for the new site. And he said that the agency plans to "open-source the whole project," so that other agencies -- or state governments building their own health exchanges -- can learn from and re-use both the code and the strategy.

"By doing this with open source tools," Cole said, "we can show to the technical public that we're doing this as carefully as possible."

About the Author

Reid Davenport is an FCW editorial fellow. Connect with him on Twitter: @ReidDavenport.

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