The administration refuses to release numbers for the 36 states in which it is taking the lead. Officials at first said the frozen computer screens and other issues were the result of a high volume of interest. They later acknowledged that software and design issues also were to blame.
The DHHS belatedly rolled out a feature that allows consumers to get a look at health plans in their area without first establishing an account. The requirement that people set up an account before shopping was at odds with the normal way e-commerce websites are run, and was blamed for overloading the system.
Appearing earlier this week on MSNBC, former White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the situation is "excruciatingly embarrassing" for the administration.
"This was bungled badly," said Gibbs, adding: "When they get it fixed, I hope they fire some people that were in charge of making sure this thing was supposed to work."
Although Gibbs did not refer to DHHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday she has "the full confidence of the president."
The potential political fallout from the troubled launch of the insurance markets isn't the major issue, though. There are bigger concerns for the impact on average Americans and, if signups remain anemic, on federal taxpayers.
The more uninsured people who buy coverage, the sooner they'll have access to services -- well-patient checkups and prescription drugs among them -- to help them improve their health and avoid a crisis that could be far costlier than preventive medicine. Their children will have access to services, too.
Just as important, robust enrollment by younger, healthier people is critical because older people and people with illnesses, who are more expensive to insure, are highly motivated to sign up. Insurers will be relying on revenue from policies they sell to younger people, who need fewer services to help make up the difference.
An insurance pool tilted toward older, sicker people also would raise costs for the government, which will be subsidizing the coverage.
The AP obtained a copy of the federal enrollment estimates in a public-records request with Idaho's health insurance marketplace, Your Health Idaho.
Uninsured people have until Dec. 15 to sign up for coverage to take effect Jan. 1, when most Americans will be required to have health insurance.