A management expert pulled in to help the administration repair its problem-ridden health care website said Friday that the site should be fully functional by the end of November 30.
"It will take a lot of work and there are a lot of problems that need to be addressed, but let me be clear, health care .gov is fixable," said Jeff Zients, a management expert who earlier this week was asked to review the troubled program run by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Zients said the site is "getting better as we speak," and that tech experts are confident that by the end of November, the site "will operate smoothly for the vast majority of users."
HHS officials said users should be able to expect "fewer time outs and less errors" in the coming weeks.
A number of Democrats are asking the administration to extend the open enrollment period for insurance beyond March 31, 2014, citing the website's persitent hiccups.
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein added her signature Friday, asking Obama to delay in a letter that says "our constituents are frustrated, and we fear that the longer the website is not functional, opportunities for people to log on, learn about their insurance choices, and enroll will be lost.” . Zients said the website is already improving: in the first few days, he said very few users were able to even create an account, "now over 90 percent can create an account."
He said performance on the much maligned site "has been volatile" for the second step in the signup process: at one point, fewer than 3 out of 10 users were able to complete applications.
"The bottom line is performance of the system has been unacceptable," Zients said on a telephone call with reporters.
He said the department is now "executing a plan of attack," -- and the system is improving. And he said, "each week the experience will get better and better."
He said there are two problems with the site: performance problems such as the speed of the site and response time and functional problems: bugs that prevent the software from working as it should.
"It's going to take a lot of work and some time, but there's a clear path forward," he said, adding the department has identified a "punch list" of fixes the department will complete, one by one.
He said HHS is appointing a general contractor, QSSI, to manage the effort, who will prioritize the fixes and see that they're done.
"Each week healthcare.gov will get faster and better," he said. "And by the end of November, the vast majority of consumers will be able to successfully and smoothly enroll through healthcare.gov."