Healthcare.gov knocked out by network outage

As if the Obama Administration’s internet effort to sign up people for health insurance didn’t have enough troubles already, the data framework behind the healthcare.gov web site went down on Sunday morning and could not immediately be put back on line, preventing anyone from signing up or completing an insurance application.

The application and enrollment process was not restored until Monday morning, when visitors to healthcare.gov could finally get past the first few web pages and reach a page to create an account, ending an over 24 hour outage.  

But by the lunch hour on Monday, the troubles had returned.

“The system is down at the moment,” the error message read all day on Sunday and again on Monday.  “We are experiencing technical difficulties and hope to have them resolved soon. Please try again later.”

“The application and enrollment system on HealthCare.gov and the Data Services Hub is down,” said spokeswoman Joanne Peters from the Department of Health and Human Services on Sunday afternoon.

Peters attributed the troubles to “Terremark, the company that operates the data center that hosts the HealthCare.gov website and the Data Services Hub,” saying there was a network failure that interrupted service.

That problem meant no one could apply or enroll on Sunday for health insurance.

Ironically, the troubles came just a day after HHS had touted the data hub to show that the process was working.

“What’s Working in the Marketplace: The Data Services Hub,” was the headline of a blog issued Saturday by Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

“Terremark is working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible,” Peters added in a statement sent to reporters.

Demonstrating that the troubles may not be minor was another statement sent at 9:30 pm on Sunday, which showed the HHS Secretary speaking about the problem with the owner of Terremark.

Secretary Sebelius spoke with the CEO of Verizon this afternoon to discuss the situation and they committed to fixing the problem as soon as possible,” the statement said, again making no prediction of when the site would be back on line.

HHS did not serve notice of the problem until after the State of Connecticut’s exchange made a public announcement that there was an outage interrupting the insurance sign up process.

“Access Health CT has been informed by CMS that the Federal Data Services Hub is currently experiencing an outage,” read a statement.

It was not immediately apparent how severe the outage was, but Verizon, which owns Terremark, indicated that repairs would hopefully fix the system by early on Monday.

“Our engineers have been working with HHS and other technology companies to identify and address the root cause of the issue,” a Verizon spokesman told me on Sunday evening.

“It will be fixed as quickly as possible,” the spokesman added.

The loss of service came after Republicans used the Sunday talk shows to again blast the White House and HHS over its handling of the healthcare.gov web site, which has had difficulties since coming on line almost four weeks ago.

Two more hearings are set in Congress this week on the matter.