Obamacare Websites Limited by Verizon Data Hub Failure

The Obamacare data hub that routes applicant information to websites run by the federal government and 14 states resumed service after failing yesterday.

The data hub center, operated by Verizon Communications Inc.’s Terremark unit, lost connectivity after workers tried to replace a broken networking component. As of 7 a.m. today New York time, the hub was “fully operational,” according to an e-mailed statement from Joanne Peters, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Health and Human Services Department.

The Obama administration has been under fire since Oct. 1 for persistent problems with computer systems assembled to help people compare and enroll in insurance plans under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Three days ago, Jeffrey Zients, the adviser brought in to help fix the flaws, said “the data hub, we believe, functions relatively smoothly.”

“Verizon Terremark successfully resolved the issue with the networking component overnight,” Peters said. “The healthcare.gov technical team continued troubleshooting one issue with the online account creation process in the application and has now opened the online application and enrollment tools back up to consumers.”

For at least a day, a note on the federal website told visitors that the system was down. Kathleen Sebelius, the U.S. health secretary, spoke with Verizon Chief Executive Officer Lowell McAdam yesterday, her agency said in a statement.

Site 'Fixable'

President Barack Obama last week appointed Zients, his incoming chief economic adviser, to first advise the health department on fixes to the system before taking on his other job. The federal site, which Zients declared “fixable,” serves consumers in 36 states, including Texas and Florida.

Websites run by most of the 14 states that chose to build their own have performed better than the federal site, though all of the sites rely to some extent on the data hub, which was built by UnitedHealth Group Inc.’s Quality Software Services unit.

Zients said Oct. 25 that the federal website, called healthcare.gov, will function smoothly for most customers by the end of November and named UnitedHealth’s QSSI as the system’s lead contractor, taking over a decision-making role formerly filled by officials at the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Since opening, the federal exchange has been plagued by delays, error messages and hang-ups that have prevented many customers from completing applications. Zients’s comments that there will be a monthlong wait to repair the federal exchange set off new calls for the president to ease a key deadline for consumers to sign up.

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