Despite the early glitches in the Healthcare.gov site, enrollments have reached 7.5 million, well past the Obama administration’s goal of 6 million. That said, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is tapping out. Her resignation was announced Thursday evening.
President Obama has been defending Sebelius for weeks after the HHS Secretary’s name became virtually synonymous with the early failures of the Affordable Care Act rollout. The POTUS said in November during an interview with NBC News that Sebelius “doesn’t write code; yeah, she wasn’t our I.T. person.”
But she probably should’ve known that the site wasn’t working properly before it went live—and maybe before President Obama toured the country, telling everyone that buying health insurance on Healthcare.gov would be like shopping for a plane ticket on Kayak.
The Obamacare rollout started out rocky—for the first few weeks, the Healthcare.gov site was down approximately 60% of the time.
On the day before launch, a technical report revealed that at that moment, the site could only handle a maximum of 1,100 users before response time became too high. The team working on the site said in the report that they were going to keep running tests to get the website to a capacity of 10,000 concurrent users. The federal government was anticipating 50,000 to 60,000 concurrent users on launch day. How many did they get? About 250,000 concurrent users.
Altogether, 2.8 million people visited the Healthcare.gov website on launch day. The site saw as many as one million by 7 am, which is five times more users than have ever been on the Medicare.gov website at any one time. In California, the state’s health exchange website CoveredCa.com was getting a whopping 10,000 hits per second. Several other state health exchange sites either crashed completely or had to shut down enrollment until they could be redesigned to handle such a high user rate.
As the story goes, only six people were able to enroll via Healthcare.gov on launch day. The site’s administrators reportedly had to go through the site with a fine-toothed comb, because as soon as they fixed one bug, another one popped up later in the enrollment process.
Sebelius was grilled mercilessly in several court hearings, and at one point she claimed that the site never actually crashed.
“It is functional,” she said, “but at a very slow speed and very low reliability, and has continued to function.”
She said this as large screens in the hearing room showed a live shot of the website, which had posted a system failure page: “The system is down at the moment. We are experiencing technical difficulties and hope to have them resolved soon.”
Sebelius at one point was considered as a possible running-mate for President Obama during the 2008 elections, when, as the Governor of Kansas, she became one of the highest ranking female Democrats to back him over Hillary Rodham Clinton.
She’ll be succeeded by Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the director of the Office of Management and Budget.