The administration has staked its credibility on turning the website around by the end of this month. From the president on down, officials have said that HealthCare.gov will be running smoothly for the vast majority of users by Nov. 30. They have not specified what "running smoothly" means.
The day was another blow for the administration and its supporters in Congress, who had been counting on Obamacare as a neutral if not winning issue in next year's midterm elections.
Three more swing state Senate Democrats seeking re-election in 2014 signed onto legislation drafted by Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana to ensure that anyone liking their current coverage would be able to keep it, an attempt to resolve the issue of cancellations.
In the House, meanwhile, majority Republicans set a vote for Friday on legislation to permit insurance companies to continue selling existing policies that have been ordered scrapped because they fall short of coverage standards in the law.
On daily media calls, Health and Human Services department officials have described a situation where problems get fixed and then new issues crop up as consumers are able to venture further into the website. It's a bit like traffic heading back to a city late on a summer Sunday: You get past one jam, and odds are you run into another.
There was a hopeful sign this Tuesday when Julie Bataille, HHS communications director for the rollout, said that 275,000 people who got hung up in the early days are being invited back to try to complete their applications. The administration is sending the email invitations in batches, so as not to risk any disruptions. White House chief technology officer Todd Park told Congress on Wednesday that system response times are much faster, and error rates have plunged.
But other signals have raised questions. In a blog post on Saturday, Bataille quoted chief White House troubleshooter Jeff Zients as saying improvements would continue in "December, January, February — just like you do with any website."
Asked whether the Nov. 30 target was still achievable, Bataille said on Tuesday, "I want to be clear that our plan remains the same. We are on a path to make improvements week by week so that by the end of November, the site will be working for the vast majority of users."
It's unlikely that Congress will let the website repairs flounder much beyond Nov. 30. Millions of lawmakers' constituents who are losing current individual policies would have to select new plans by Dec. 15 to avoid a break in coverage.
The main federal website is central because other enrollment routes, from call centers to counselors to paper applications received by mail, all depend on having that access.
In Congress earlier Wednesday, the House's chief investigator plunged into the technical issues behind the dysfunctional rollout.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is investigating a long list of issues: insufficient testing, possible security flaws, design shortcomings — even allegations of political meddling.
"Established best practices of our government were not used in this case," said Issa. As a result, the law's promise of affordable health insurance "does not exist today in a meaningful way." Like other Republicans, Issa wants the law repealed, not fixed.
Ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings of Maryland questioned Issa's fairness.
Addressing Issa directly, Cummings said: "Over the past month, instead of working in a bipartisan manner to improve the website, you've politicized this issue by repeatedly making unfounded allegations."
Associated Press writer Anne Flaherty, Julie Pace and David Espo contributed to this report.
- Wyoming ranked third in US in percentage of...
- Test anxiety: How cold feet are ruining your...
- Hometown pastor says community stands by...
- Sen. Harry Reid's retirement recalls his...
- 'A marvellous work and a wonder': A look back...
- Drownings along Rio Grande spike after...
- O'Malley: Presidency 'not some crown'...
- Hundreds rally against Indiana law, say it's...
- 'A marvellous work and a wonder': A... 63
- 'Maternal feminists' defend motherhood... 57
- Rep. Trey Gowdy: Hillary Clinton wiped... 48
- Sen. Harry Reid's retirement recalls... 39
- Senate's Harry Reid announces he won't... 34
- Alone at controls, Germanwings co-pilot... 27
- Preparing for 2016 campaign, Hillary... 18
- Military: Bowe Bergdahl may face life... 18