Many consumers were puzzled and frustrated when the federal website went live because it would not let them browse health plans without first setting up an account. That's the opposite of how e-commerce generally works. Most websites ask consumers to open an account after they're ready to purchase.
The flaw drove many people to an accounts creation page that turned out to be riddled with bugs and contributed to the system's early woes.
On Monday, HHS announced the deployment of a window-shopping function that lets prospective customers see plans and prices in their area, including previously unavailable details such as deductibles and cost-sharing, as well as provider networks.
People who got stuck in the system can now zap away their old applications and start over.
To do that, you log into your account, select the application in progress and hit "remove."
You have to follow that by closing and reopening your web browser. Then you log back in and start a new application.
The reset process may not be entirely foolproof because HHS advises consumers to reach out to the call center at 1-800-318-2596 if they have trouble.
To help stave off problems during periods of high user volume, the website now has a queuing system. Consumers can request email notifications of when is a good time to come back. The feature kicked in this week as people flooded back to check out the revamped website.
The site can now handle 50,000 simultaneous users. Each visitor spends an average of 20 to 30 minutes on the site. In theory, the site will support more than 800,000 consumer visits a day.
The big spikes in traffic are still to come. Expect that to happen after the middle of this month, since Dec. 23 is the last day that people can apply for coverage that will take effect Jan. 1. Even heavier volume is likely toward the end of open enrollment March 31, as procrastinators jump in.
Still, reaching the White House goal of 7 million sign-ups seems like a tall order. The government initially projected that 1.2 million people would have enrolled by the end of November, and the actual number is likely to be only a fraction of that.