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'Stress tests' show Healthcare.gov was overloaded

Although more than 3 million Americans who buy their own health insurance have received cancellations letters, Kathleen Sebelius rejected bipartisan calls to postpone part of the healthcare law. NBC's Peter Alexander reports.

Internal documents obtained exclusively by NBC News reveal that "stress tests" done to a key component of Healthcare.gov the day before the website went live showed it could only handle 1100 users at once before it became overloaded.

"Currently we are able to reach 1100 users before response time gets too high," the report says of a test done on Sept. 30. It added that website developer CGI Federal was "making changes to configuration."

The internal documents, released by Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee, are titled the “ACA Daily Testing Bulletin,” and show a list of tests done by the contractor QSSI in the days surrounding the site’s roll-out.

Read the report here (.pdf)

QSSI has since been tasked by the Obama administration to lead the repairs needed on the website.

Also revealed in the documents is a “target” by contractors for the website to be able to handle “up to 10,000 concurrent users” in the first days after the launch. 

That goal  was much lower than benchmarks expressed by the Obama administration, who said in a report in USA Today that they expected to have 50,000 to 60,000 concurrent users in the site’s first days.

The documents reiterate well-documented problems with the website that occurred after its initial rollout on Oct. 1.

Joanne Peters, a spokeswoman for HHS, responded by saying “As we have said many times, there’s no question we wish we had done more testing,” and said that HHS is “now working around the clock to improve the consumer experience on HealthCare.gov.”

“One of the items we have ticked off our punch list is response times for page loads, which we have reduced dramatically from eight seconds to less than one second,” Peters said, “Moving forward, the team is focused on diagnosing and fixing every tech issue as it is identified.”

The White House has blamed the initial issues with Healthcare.gov on higher than expected traffic, and contractors have pointed towards late changes to the website’s workflow for the high number of users on Day One.

"It appears that one of the reasons for the high concurrent volume at the registration system was a late decision requiring consumers to register for an account before they could browse for insurance products," QSSI’s Andrew Slavitt told a House Committee on Oct. 24.

Issues with the website continue to result in questions from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was asked Wednesday at a Senate hearing if a temporary shutdown of the site would be beneficial. Sebelius, who said they had identified “a couple of hundred functional fixes” that needed to be addressed, said a temporary shutdown wasn't the answer.

“Given the fact that the various fixes, particularly the functionality fixes, the codes, have to be written in batches, it's been advised that you don't gain much from just taking the whole system down for a week, a couple of weeks,” Sebelius told the Senate Finance Committee, “It's better to do this on an ongoing basis.”

Sebelius told the Committee that the Obama Administration would be releasing preliminary enrollment numbers next week, but warned that the numbers are  “going to be very low.”

Also Wednesday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which is managing the rollout of Healthcare.gov, announced that a top official in charge of overseeing the website’s launch is stepping down. 

Tony Trenkle, the Director of the Office of Information Services, will leave CMS for the private sector, an official for CMS confirmed to reporters today.  The official would not say whether Trenkle’s departure is related to the rollout of Healthcare.gov, but did say the decision to leave was his own.

NBC's Peter Alexander contributed.

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