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Local website designer's take on health care signup problems

By: Jamel Valencia and Associated Press

"There's no sugarcoating it," President Barack Obama said on Monday. "Nobody is more frustrated than I am."

The president said his administration was doing "everything we can possibly do" to get the federally-run websites where people are supposed to apply for insurance up and running. That includes bringing in additional technology experts from inside and outside the government to work on the issues.

Local website designer Octavio Corral of Mind Warp LLC said the problems has encountered are to be expected with such a huge launch site.

On Oct. 1, Americans without health insurance were able to apply for coverage as a result of the "Affordable Care Act." But when the exchange sites opened, many seeking to sign up experienced problems like getting kicked off the site, causing them to restart the entire process.

"They didn't design the system to fail appropriately. If things are going to fail, you design them to fail well," added Corral.

White House officials said more than 19 million people have visited since the site went live on Oct. 1.

Although administration officials have acknowledged issues with software and some elements of the system's design, they have repeatedly cited high consumer interest as among the factors overwhelming the website when people try to log on.

"There's no question that the volume has caused some of the problems but also exposed some of the problems," White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday.

With a massive site launch, Corral suggested a different approach on rolling out the website.

"A soft launch could have targeted the bugs and could have been fixed," he said.

Another suggestion Corral mentioned was to have a beta label on the website so users can expect issues.
"Even the big guys can't get it right. It's completely expected," said Corral.

Obama's address on Monday wasn't the only talked about Internet problem. Facebook, the world's largest social network,had problems with its status update feature this morning.

White House officials said at this point they are not considering extending the enrollment window beyond March 31. They also said they are not considering taking the website down for an extended period of time to address the problem, but instead will do that maintenance during low-traffic overnight hours.

Corral, who is familiar with problems like this but on a much smaller scale, understands that at time technology can go wrong, but there is an upside.

"When you launch websites you get massive amounts of data of what's going wrong," he said.

The data Corral talks about helps developers come up with solutions that target the problem.

Since the glitches, has listed issues it's working on and have responded to feedback.

Some new features have also been added to the site like, "Apply by Phone" and a "Live Chat" functionality.

As an expert in web design, Corral thinks the site is great, even for those who don't use the Internet much.

"Usability is easy to use and straightforward," he said.

Corral said at the end of the day, the problems can be attributed to high-volume traffic.

"It's normal, but because it's political it's been blown out of proportion. It's hard to drown out the noise of what's really going on," he said.

People have until March 31 to sign up for coverage. The president guaranteed that everyone who wants to get insurance through the new health care exchanges will be able to, even if they have to enroll over the phone or fill out a paper application.
The White House also appeared to open the door to the possibility that people trying to purchase insurance who were confounded by website problems might be exempted from the law's penalty for remaining uninsured after March 31.



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