White House urging allies not to drive traffic to HealthCare.gov - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

White House urging allies not to drive traffic to HealthCare.gov

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White House officials are urging their own allies to avoid the ObamaCare website they've spent the last two months trying to repair. 

The administration, ahead of its self-imposed Nov. 30 deadline for fixing HealthCare.gov, specifically is asking allied groups not to drive traffic to the site this weekend -- out of concern that a surge in users could crash the page. A White House official, who confirmed they made the request in a meeting earlier this week, said they want to first see how the website handles traffic before encouraging grassroots efforts to enroll more people. 

High volume is possible this weekend, the official cautioned. 

The plea to allies is another sign that, despite the administration's initial vow to fix the site by Nov. 30, HealthCare.gov will continue to be rocky. 

Officials, over the past few weeks, have steadily lowered expectations for that Nov. 30 deadline. First, they said it would be fixed. Then they said it would be significantly improved. On Tuesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the site is "on track" to give a "significantly different user experience" by this weekend. 

The comments reflect concern that traffic could once again overwhelm the site, despite improvements made since the Oct. 1 launch. 

The White House official said the site should be able to handle 50,000 concurrent users, as was originally intended, for the first time by the end of November. But the official said a spike in traffic -- like the 200,000 concurrent users they saw on Oct. 1 -- could cause would-be customers to be sent into a holding pattern. Those customers would then receive an email asking them to come back later. 

The official suggested people visit during off-peak hours. 

The New York Times first reported that White House Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri met Monday with allies like the Service Employees International Union and Enroll America, which are working to bring people to the website. 

According to the Times, she urged them to hold off at the beginning of December. 

"Our recommendation is that we expect there to be really high traffic. You shouldn't be driving traffic," she reportedly said. 

If the site is overwhelmed after Saturday, the administration will likely face more criticism from lawmakers and calls to delay key parts of the law until the website problems are fully addressed. 

But the administration and its supporters appear to be sending mixed messages ahead of the re-launch. While the White House is privately urging allied groups to hold off on visiting the site, the Obama-tied Organizing for Action is circulating tip sheets to help supporters encourage family members to sign up for coverage during the holiday break.   

The group is urging supporters to "have the talk" with relatives about enrolling.   

Fox News' Wes Barrett contributed to this report.

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