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HealthCare.gov has rocky relaunch

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WASHINGTON – The Obama administration’s overhauled healthcare website got off to a bumpy relaunch Monday as a rush of consumers caused an uptick in errors and forced the administration to put thousands of shoppers on the HealthCare.gov site on hold.

“Demand today has been high,” said Julie Bataille, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which is operating the troubled portal for the president’s healthcare law. “We do know that things are not perfect with the site.”

Bataille said about 375,000 visitors went to the site before noon, about double the normal traffic for a Monday morning. The volume caused pages to load slowly and the rate of errors to spike.

About 10 a.m. EST, federal officials turned on a new queuing system that alerts some visitors to the site to come back later.

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The new problems came just a day after the administration announced that it had hit its goal of rescuing HealthCare.gov from its disastrous launch two months ago.

Officials said over the weekend that improvements to the site would allow 50,000 people to use it simultaneously. But Bataille acknowledged that her agency was forced to start queuing visitors when about 35,000 visitors were on the site Monday morning.

“We will continue to work to make improvements and upgrades,” she said.

[Updated, 6:48 p.m. Dec. 2: The administration said performance of the site improved later in the day, saying in a Twitter message that 750,000 people had used the site by 5:30 p.m. and that users were no longer having to wait in the queue.]

The website is supposed to allow consumers in 36 states who do not get health coverage through work to shop for a health plan. The plans must meet new standards outlined in the Affordable Care Act.

The remaining 14 states and the District of Columbia are using their own insurance marketplaces and websites for residents. In most cases, those have functioned significantly better than HealthCare.gov.

Other issues with the site continue to concern insurance companies, which have been getting inaccurate or incomplete data about consumers who have tried to enroll in health plans through HealthCare.gov.

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Bataille said Monday that officials believe they have fixed one of the main software bugs responsible for errors in the transmission of this data. But she refused to provide information about the extent of the problem and what percentage of consumer data is now is being accurately sent, a critical measure of the site’s effectiveness.

Bataille urged consumers who believe they have successfully enrolled in a health plan through the website to double check with their insurance carriers.

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noam.levey@latimes.com

Twitter: @noamlevey

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