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White House gives check-up on HealthCare.gov website

The Health and Human Services Department released a progress report Sunday on its effort get the troubled HealthCare.gov website on the mend. Administration officials said the worst of the online glitches, bugs and delays may be over. Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The White House announced Sunday that it had met its goal of making sure the beleaguered HealthCare.gov website was running smoothly for the vast majority of users, but the Obama administration still has work to do to repair the political damage from the troubled rollout of the program.

“The bottom line is HealthCare.gov on Dec. 1 is night and day from where it was Oct. 1,” said Jeffrey Zients, the administration official charged with overseeing the improvement effort. “The site is now stable and operating at its intended capacity at greatly improved performance.”

Administration officials said the site is now working more than 90 percent of the time, up from about 43 percent in October, following a series of hardware upgrades and software fixes. The Morning Line“The site now has the capacity to handle 50,000 concurrent or simultaneous users at one time,” wrote Julie Bataille, communications director for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, in a blog post on the Department of Health and Human Services website. “We know that each visitor spends, on average, 20 to 30 minutes on the site per visit. So the site will support more than 800,000 consumer visits a day.”

“So we have a much more stable system that’s reliably open for business,” she added.

The Associated Press’ Phil Elliot reports that the improvements could lead to more people signing up ahead of the deadline. He notes:

The first big test of the repaired website probably won’t come for a few more weeks, when an enrollment surge is expected as consumers rush to meet a Dec. 23 deadline so their coverage can kick in on the first of the year.

Congressional Democrats, who have been put on the defensive because of the problems with the launch, welcomed the news.

“This is the equivalent of having a great item that you want to buy in a store but not being able to get through the front door. It sounds like the front door has been opened successfully now, and hopefully we’re going to have Americans get access to that health care they desperately need,” Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said Sunday during an appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Republicans, meanwhile, said fixing the website would not change the underlying problems with the health care law.

“I do hope that the efficacy of this is much better today and will improve. But at the end of the day, while there will be a few winners, most Americans are going to find a less dynamic health system,” Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said on CBS. “I still think the foundations of this plan have some of the same kinds of problems that the rollout has had, but they’re fundamental, very hard to overcome. And unfortunately, as people enroll, I think there’s going to be a lot of negative surprises as to what they’re able to enroll in.”

The New York Times’ Robert Pear and Reed Abelson report that insurers remain concerned that the repairs to back-end parts of the system will not be completed before the start of 2014. They write:

The issues are vexing and complex. Some insurers say they have been deluged with phone calls from people who believe they have signed up for a particular health plan, only to find that the company has no record of the enrollment. Others say information they received about new enrollees was inaccurate or incomplete, so they had to track down additional data — a laborious task that would not be feasible if data is missing for tens of thousands of consumers.

In still other cases, insurers said, they have not been told how much of a customer’s premium will be subsidized by the government, so they do not know how much to charge the policyholder.

The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, notes that insurers are also looking at ways to bypass the federal exchange altogether.

And Bloomberg is reporting Monday that “about 100,000 people signed up for health insurance through the online federal exchange last month, a roughly four-fold increase from October.”

With lawmakers in the House returning to Washington late Monday after a weeklong recess, there’s little doubt Republicans will continue to challenge the Obama administration on the site’s rollout and other difficulties. That’s one reason the White House announced last week that the administration will delay the mandate and penalties for small businesses to enroll in that provision of the health care law.

Between HealthCare.gov’s troubles and insurance companies canceling some policies in response to the Affordable Care Act, the issue will remain front and center. For the Obama administration, getting the website up and running is just the first step in what is likely to be a long rebuilding process.

CONTINUED PUSH FOR IMMIGRATION

Mr. Obama kept up the drumbeat for comprehensive immigration reform last week while traveling to the West Coast. But his call for House Republicans to allow a vote on the measure that overwhelmingly passed the Senate earlier this year was interrupted by supporters frustrated he has deported 1.4 million undocumented people, and is on track to have deported 2 million by the end of his presidency.

The NewsHour examined Mr. Obama’s policies on deportation with a debate between two backers of a comprehensive approach who differ on how the president has handled deportation. Watch here or below:


The president and First Lady Michelle Obama also visited activists on the National Mall who have been fasting in hopes of forcing a vote on immigration.

LINE ITEMS

  • The biggest news that happened while the Morning Line took a weeklong Thanksgiving break was a major deal out of Geneva on Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

  • In a Friday interview with Barbara Walters, Mr. Obama talked about the health care law and the possibility he would remain in Washington until his youngest daughter Sasha finishes high school.

  • For Small Business Saturday, Mr. Obama and his family bought 21 books at Washington, D.C. bookstore Politics and Prose. See the list here.

  • The Washington Post’s David Nakamura previews Vice President Joe Biden’s trip to Asia and the importance of his outreach to China.

  • Paul Kane rounds up the lengthy to-do list for Congress in the final month of the year.

  • The IRS has proposed limited political activity of nonprofit groups engaged in elections.

  • The Supreme Court will consider this spring cases from employers challenging the Obama administration who say they have a religious exception to offering contraception coverage through their health care plans.

  • Robert Barnes notices the Supreme Court is hearing fewer cases than usual this year.

  • Virginia State Sen. Creigh Deeds, attacked by his son last month, was released from the hospital. The 2009 gubernatorial nominee faulted the state’s mental health facilities in the wake of the family tragedy and said he wants to see the system change. “I cry a lot,” Deeds told his local paper, the Bath County Recorder, which also did an op-ed asking the community to unite behind the Democrat.

  • As expected, Virginia state Sen. Mark Obenshain has requested a recount in his race to be the state’s next attorney general. Just 165 votes of 2.2 million separated the Republican from Democratic state Sen. Mark Herring, who was certified as the victor. The recount in this closest race in state history will be completed by mid-December.

  • A bipartisan working group would like to implement major changes to the presidential debate system ahead of the 2016 elections.

  • Seven Democratic Members of Congress issued a statement in support of Walmart workers protesting on Black Friday. More 1,500 protests took place across the country.

  • Politico’s James Hohmann sees Michigan, Iowa and Oregon as the biggest swing states ahead of the 2014 midterm Senate races.

  • The president criticized Republicans for standing in his way during a series of fundraisers on the West Coast.

  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell talked with the Washington Examiner’s David Drucker about his war with tea party insurgents as he looks to his 2014 re-election bid.

  • Former Sen. Bob Smith will move back to New Hampshire from Florida to run against Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen next fall.

  • Politico takes a close look at the Obama-Hillary Clinton relationship.

  • Huffington Post’s Jon Ward watches the documentary about the Iowa caucuses so you don’t have to.

  • Liz Cheney is on the air, and her family stars in the ads.

  • Politico profiles Georgia gubernatorial candidate Jason Carter and how his candidacy is shaped by his grandfather the former president.

  • National Journal’s Ron Fournier does a visual comparison to get at why it matters that the Obama White House uses its own staff photographer frequently instead of allowing access to news photographers. Dana Milbank weighs in, too.

  • A brutal headline from Huffington Post: “Obama Has Pardoned Almost As Many Turkeys As Drug Offenders.”

  • Talking Points Memo got a behind-the-scenes peek at the same-sex wedding Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg presided over last month.

  • Minnesota Sen. Al Franken drew this caricature of Richard Nixon and donated it to a charity auction.

  • House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers gave birth to a third child, Brynn Catherine, on Nov. 24.

  • Al Gore is now vegan.

  • Secretary of State John Kerry got a yellow lab puppy named Ben, after Benjamin Franklin.

  • Seen the cars with the big pink mustache but were too afraid to ask what they are all about? Christine Grimaldi profiles Lyft for Atlantic Cities.

  • And our 100-day-old bundle of joy at the National Zoo finally has a name. Panda cub Bao Bao is adorable no matter what you call her.

NEWSHOUR: #notjustaTVshow

  • Jeffrey Brown interviewed Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker about his new book, “Unintimidated,” which chronicles last year’s recall fight and offers thoughts on how the Republican Party can win nationally.

  • Mark Shields and David Brooks spoke with Hari Sreenivasan about the Iran nuclear deal, the Pope’s critique of capitalism and the IRS’ proposed curbs on tax-exempt organizations. Watch:


TOP TWEETS

Katelyn Polantz contributed to this report.

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