Obamacare website deadline Saturday, still a work in progress

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Deadline is Saturday.

People trying to sign up for health insurance on the federal website will get an extra week to sign up and get coverage that starts on Jan. 1, federal officials announced Friday.

It’s the latest acknowledgement that HealthCare.gov is not working well and that people need extra time to get enrolled in health insurance, although officials also say the website is improving day by day.

“HHS intends to extend the date by which consumers need to enroll in the plan in order to get coverage on January 1st, from December 15th to Dec 23,” said Julie Bataille, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which runs the website.

The website fell apart as soon as it opened on Oct. 1, providing ammunition for critics of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, who wasted no time. Republican-controlled committees in Congress have launched several investigations and have leaked documents showing that federal officials knew the website likely would not work well when it debuted.

White House and Health and Human Services Department officials have said they knew the rollout wouldn’t be perfectly smooth but say they had no idea how bad the problems were. HHS has since hired outside experts to help fix the site and President Barack Obama appointed his new chief economic adviser, Jeff Zients, to oversee the repairs.

Zients said Friday the site would be able to handle 50,000 users at any given time. “In the capacity we will have by the end of the month, this means the system will be able to accommodate more than 800,000 visits a day from consumers who are seeking information, filling out applications, shopping and enrolling,” Zients told reporters on a conference call.

“The system will not work perfectly but it will operate smoothly for the vast majority of users,” Zients added. Officials have defined “vast majority’ as about 80 percent of users, they say many of the remaining 20 percent will have complicated personal situations that will make the site harder to use.

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