Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius wants people to combine holiday shopping with health care spending this year. Sebelius put digital pen to digital paper on November 29, using The Huffington Post to promote HealthCare.gov in a blog post.
Sebelius gave tips on signing up for health insurance using the federal website and provided reminders of deadlines and contact information if further assistance is needed. The information was published one day before the Obama administration’s self-imposed November 30 deadline for having the website restored to full working order.
Sebelius also reminded potential health coverage customers that if they want insurance by January 1, they need to sign up by December 23. She wrote that the administration is “working around the clock” to fix the website.
Sebelius was not the only public face of the issue ahead of the deadline. Jeffrey Zients, the White House-appointed adviser for fixing the issues plaguing the site, held a meeting with his team and reporters. The Wall Street Journal covered his remarks. Zients said that about 300 issues had been identified and fixed. The “vast majority of users” will experience smooth sailing with using the site, he added.
Officials still say that there could be issues with capacity, particularly with demand potentially higher than what the site can handle. Sebelius may want shoppers to split time between presents and insurance, but 30 percent of the marketplace still needed to be built as of November 19. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Communications Director Julie Bataille told the Journal that building the marketplace “is actively happening now.”
In her piece for The Huffington Post, Sebelius recommends shopping during off-peak hours: in the morning, at night, or on the weekend. When you log in, she says it will be useful to have your tax and income information at hand. There is a 1-800 number to call for help, or individuals can use a website to find local, in-person assistance.
What Sebelius did not provide were tips on ways to keep private information safe. At a hearing on November 19, David Kennedy, a “white hat hacker” — that is, someone who hacks for the purposes of testing systems, not for personal gain – found critical flaws with HealthCare.gov’s security.
“Just by looking at the website, we can see that there is just fundamental security principles that are not being followed,” Kennedy said. ABC provided remarks made by Kennedy and other cyber security witnesses. At the time, three out of four agreed the site needed to be taken offline to address the threats.