The Obamacare website goes down every night so technicians can work on it, trying to untangle complicated snarls that make it a mess nearly a month after the site -- healthcare.gov -- went online. Insurance agent Rebecca Norquist of North Platte told the Bulletin Tuesday that she continues to work with clients, and makes lists of their choices, planning to register them when the site is finally working.
Insurance companies have said the deadline to register for Obamacare is Dec. 15 in order for policies to be in effect by Jan. 1. But technically, the healthcare law only requires people have health insurance by March 31, according to The Hill, a Washington D.C. news service.
On Monday, the White House clarified that anyone who signs up by March 31 would not face a penalty.
"They are saying it (healthcare.gov) will be all set by the end of November," Norquist said. "With the website down every night, maybe they will make it."
Reuters news service reported Oct. 17 that the potential total value for the website work has tripled, to nearly $292 million, even before the latest round of repairs began.
The general contractor is a company called CGI Federal, a subsidiary of a Canadian firm, CGI Group. That company blames the government, specifically the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which is in charge of government oversight, the Cable News Network (CNN) reported.
On both Monday and Tuesday, testifying before a congressional panel, panelists could not say how many error logs were received, how many people had enrolled or when the site would be fixed, according to CNN.
Those answers would be available by mid-November, a government official told a congressional panel on Tuesday.
Support for President Obama appears to be waning. He is widely criticized for saying, when reform laws that were being written, that people would be able to keep their insurance policies if they want to.
In fact, an early provision of Obamacare stipulated that policies in effect in March 2010 could be grandfathered, but most insurance companies went ahead and stopped offering those policies.
Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Nebraska caused widespread alarm in September, when the company sent renewal notices to individual clients who do not have insurance through their jobs.
The notices, which contained about 30 pages of information, said the current policy was invalid under the Affordable Care Act, and listed other coverage options, many of which cost significantly more.
The notices also told clients to select a coverage level, sign and return the form no later than Nov. 1.
A White House official said Tuesday that people actually have until March 15 to enroll, and they should shop the exchange when it starts operating if they don't like options from their existing insurance company.
Marilyn Tavenner, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services made those comments when she testified before the House Committee on Ways and Means. She oversees operation of the website exchanges.
Republicans loudly call for a delay in health care reform and promise to make Obamacare the prime issue of the 2014 campaign season.
Democrats, on the other hand, say Republicans are obstructing the law.
"The Republicans don't have clean hands coming here," said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-New Jersey) at the hearing Monday before the Energy and Commerce Committee. "Their effort isn't to make this better, but to use the website as an excuse to delay or defund Obamacare."
Members of Congress from Nebraska joined the Republican call for a delay in reform, happily pointing out the troubles.
Rep. Adrian Smith said Monday that the President "directed users to call the toll free help line if they couldn't get on the website, but the toll free line also has long delays and usually refers users back to the defective website."
“For the few users who are able to actually log on to the website, price estimates frequently are wrong, the system often misidentifies individuals, and the information sent to insurance companies many times is inaccurate,” Smith said.
“Until these serious issues are resolved, I hope all sides would be willing to alleviate and lessen the problems this law is creating for the American people,” he said.
Sen. Mike Johanns cosponsored a bill Monday to delay Obamacare’s individual mandate until the healthcare.gov website and "other options to enroll" are verifiably functional.
“The rollout of Obamacare has been a trainwreck from the get-go," Johanns said, in case anyone missed it.
This report was updated and clarified Tuesday morning.