The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

October 19, 2013

Health surfers clicked off over $400M website

By Ashley Wislock
The Daily Item

— SUNBURY — More than two weeks after its rollout, HealthCare.gov, the federal government’s health insurance marketplace, is still plagued with massive glitches.

The website, which cost nearly $400 million through March 31, is still unable to allow most users to even log in, according to data released Tuesday by Kantar US Insights and based on research conducted by the nonpartisan firm Millward Brown Digital.

Website traffic Oct. 1 was roughly equivalent to that on Target.com, but the server was unprepared to handle that many hits, according to the report by Matt Pace, vice president of Millward Brown.

Through Oct. 5, more than 9 million users visited the site, but only 271,000 people successfully logged in and only 36,000 completed enrollment, according to the numbers.

That’s a poor track record for such an expensive website, said Conor Quinlan, chief executive officer of MePush in Lewisburg.

“There are other large sites that people hit on a regular basis like this,” he said. “People know how to gauge for that.”

While all websites have bugs, Quinlan said the amount of funding for the website should have ensured that everything was stress-tested and ready to go for the site’s launch. While users will refresh and retry a website if they are motivated, those who are not enthused about the program may not, Quinlan said.

“If my desire for the health care is not great, I’m not going to go back,” he said. “But if someone really has a need, they will keep trying.”



Call, don’t click

Valley residents said they have been trying to use the website, but ran into problems, causing them to turn to other methods of registering for the program.

“My application has been processed,” Patricia K. Arduini wrote on The Daily Item’s Facebook page. “The application was a breeze to complete. The glitch now is being able to view my results. Once this has been rectified I’ll be set to shop. I have had wonderful conversations with the 800-number representatives as well as the online chat reps. They are very willing to assist in any way they are able at this time.”

Nancy Wisniewski Libbey wrote she also had to use the special government phone line to sign up.

“Yes, I experienced glitches, but simply called the 800 number,” she said. “An efficient representative took my info, opened my account, started my application and will guide me through the process the old-fashioned way — person to person.” U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat and a huge proponent of health-care reform, said he agrees that HealthCare.gov needs to be fixed as soon as possible.

“Senator Casey believes the administration needs to work immediately to fix problems at HealthCare.gov and ensure that Pennsylvanians and Americans across the country have access to a workable site,” spokesman John Rizzo said. “The fact that millions of people across the country have visited HealthCare.gov is a sign that there’s significant interest in the program.”

A Valley program helping people sort through the health-care reform maze is Geisinger’s Trusted Advisor program, available through geisinger.org/reform or (855) 849-1510, which provides counselors able provide real-time answers to questions, according to a press release by the health care system.

“With the launch of the state and federal health insurance marketplaces, it is natural that people are going to have questions about what the changes mean to them and their families,” said Glenn Steele, Geisinger president and CEO.