When Obamacare’s website, Healthcare.gov first launched in 2013, the result was a cataclysmic disaster for the titular president and his administration. The digital embodiment of the Affordable Care Act managed to enroll six people out of over four million hits, and only 248 people in total were able to enroll the following day. The website launch was such a blunder, many were surprised then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump didn’t try to capitalize on it during the campaign. Regardless, Healthcare.gov now exists in a much leaner and more successful form — despite Republicans’ failed attempts to repeal it.
According to a slide from a Department of Health and Human Services president obtained by reporters from Vox and Kaiser Health News, however, Tom Price‘s outfit has scheduled what one former Obama official called an “abnormal” amount of website maintenance. The open enrollment period for 2018 will run for six weeks straight, from November 1st to December 15th of this year. Yet the presentation in question indicates there will be an “overnight outage” the very first day. What’s more, every Sunday except for December 10th during this period will see Healthcare.gov shut down for 12 hours, from 12am to 12pm ET.
Aside from speaking with former Obama officials about the matter, Vox’s Sarah Kliff also reminded her followers that this year’s open enrollment period was only 45 days long. In 2016, the 2017 period last double that.
Slate reached out to HHS for comment. In response, a department spokesperson described the planned Sunday shutdowns as “maintenance outages” designed to help their team tackle any and all technical issues during the “lowest-traffic time periods.”
Maintenance outages are regularly scheduled on HealthCare.gov every year during open enrollment. This year is no different. The maintenance schedule was provided in advance this year in order to accommodate requests from certified application assisters. System downtime is planned for the lowest-traffic time periods on HealthCare.gov including Sunday evenings and overnight.
Affording to other former HHS officials and Obama-era White House staffers, however, the additional cuts to signup time aren’t necessary. If anything, they argue, these scheduled maintenance interruptions are only removing what little time remains in open enrollment currently that the Trump administration hasn’t already cut out.