The Trump administration is expecting to take down the Obamacare website healthcare.gov for maintenance for several hours nearly every Sunday during open enrollment.
The website will go offline for 12 hours, from midnight until noon, every Sunday except Dec. 9, 2018, and may also be taken down during the early morning on the first day of open enrollment while programmers make final adjustments.
The total downtime is expected to be no more than 60 hours, but a spokesman from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said it is likely to be far fewer. Last year, the site was down for only 21.5 hours, even though the same 60-hour windows were planned.
CMS announced the plans on Tuesday, saying that the website maintenance would follow the same schedule as the previous year. Democrats and outside pro-Obamacare groups last year accused the administration of taking the site down in an attempt at "sabotage," but administration officials countered that website maintenance is standard procedure to keep the website from crashing or slowing down, which can get in the way of people shopping for health plans.
“Maintenance windows are regularly scheduled on healthcare.gov every year during open enrollment," a CMS spokesman said. "This year’s potential planned maintenance schedule is the same as last year’s. Similar to last year, we are sharing the maximum potential healthcare.gov maintenance windows to allow agents, brokers, and assisters to plan in advance of open enrollment. Regular scheduled maintenance will continue to be planned for the lowest-traffic time periods on healthcare.gov, including Sunday mornings."
The healthcare.gov open enrollment period begins Nov. 1 and goes through Dec. 15, allowing people who don't get coverage through a job or through a government program to buy health plans or shop for a new plan or re-enroll. Three dozen states use the program, and the rest of the states and the District of Columbia have their own websites and deadlines.
The Trump administration shortened the open enrollment period during 2017, its first year managing the website, from when the Obama administration oversaw it and it lasted three months. The Obama administration had planned for a similar shortened time period of six weeks to take effect beginning this year.
People who do not select a healthcare plan will be automatically re-enrolled into their former plan or into one that is similar. The open enrollment ahead shows that in most states the price of premiums is expected to fall slightly, by an average of 3 percent, and that more health insurers are expected to participate.
During the first open enrollment, in 2013, healthcare.gov under the Obama administration faced technical problems including long wait times, which prevented people from enrolling in coverage and led to deadline extensions. The issues led to the resignation of former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. In later years the same problems did not occur as the site underwent various makeovers.