Few hiccups for HealthCare.gov during open enrollment

Several thousand users registering for new accounts were put in an online waiting room for an average of about three minutes, but otherwise the site was able to support demand.

Screen capture of HealthCare.gov in November 2014.

The first deadline of the 2015 open enrollment season for health coverage under the 2010 health care law has passed, and the HealthCare.gov systems have so far performed well, according to top officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Consumers had until Dec. 15 to renew or enroll in new coverage for plans taking effect Jan. 1. The HealthCare.gov site was able to support a surge of demand that peaked at more than 125,000 concurrent users on Dec. 15.

The system "did not run into capacity constraint," Andrew Slavitt, principle deputy administrator at CMS, said on a call with reporters. Several thousand users who were registering for new accounts were shunted into an online waiting room for an average of about three minutes, Slavitt said, but otherwise the site was able to support demand.

Overall, more than 11 million users have visited HealthCare.gov and the Spanish-language version CuidadoDeSalud.gov between the start of the open enrollment period on Nov. 15 and Dec. 12. Full metrics won’t be available for about a week. More than 2.4 million applications for coverage have been submitted, 48 percent from new consumers and 52 percent from existing consumers renewing coverage.

Policyholders who don’t renew their coverage are re-enrolled in their existing plans, creating a new challenges for CMS -- getting coverage for customers whose plans have been discontinued by their carriers.

Customers with discontinued plans who did not seek new coverage by the Dec. 15 deadline are being "cross-walked" into "substantially similar" plans, according to Marketplace CEO Kevin Counihan.

CMS has devised an algorithm that selects a plan that most closely resembles a past plan in terms of cost and coverage. Consumers who are put into new plans (about 5 percent of federal marketplace enrollees, or about 335,000 policyholders) will have the opportunity to change their coverage, to take effect Feb. 1.

Lastly on the tech front, CMS ran a pilot program testing the auto reenrollment process with a selected group of carriers to make sure the data and file transfer process between the Federally Facilitated Marketplace and insurance company systems was operational. According to Counihan, carriers report that the process is so far going smoothly.

"Now, will we have anticipated all consumer issues or concerns? Absolutely not. But we've got the service infrastructure to address these ad hoc concerns and resolve these problems," Counihan said.

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