Senate Obamacare hearing: Obamacare website getting better, official tells Senate panel

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Go to the Obamacare website today because "it has improved," with more people completing applications after a month of problems that botched the rollout of HealthCare.gov, the official in charge of creating the online program told a Senate committee on Tuesday.

Marilyn Tavenner, head of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, assured the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee the website will be fixed by the end of November, as promised.

In one change implemented by tech experts brought in get the website working, Tavenner said, consumers can now view and compare health insurance plans online without registering for an account.

When the website came online on October 1, it got overwhelmed by initial volume, and outside contractors working on the system blamed the requirement for people to set up an account before they could view coverage options instead of being able to "window shop" without registering.

"In the first few days that we went live, few consumers could create an account," Tavenner said. "We have now resolved that issue. Users can successfully create an account and go through the enrollment process. We are able now to process nearly 17,000 registrants per hour, or five per second, with almost no errors."

Tavenner also said that "we've added more capacity and we doubled the number of servers in order to meet demand," and "we reconfigured various system components to improve site responsiveness."

She appeared for a second time before a congressional committee in the aftermath of the problem-plagued rollout of HealthCare.gov, and Tuesday's hearing quickly displayed the continuing political battle over President Barack Obama's signature health care reforms.

Republicans who have made dismantling or repealing the 2010 Affordable Care Act -- the official name for Obamacare -- a top priority focused on policy cancellations and higher prices facing some people, as well as the website woes that included difficulty logging on, error messages and lengthy delays.

Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the ranking Republican on the panel, said Obama broke his promise that people who like their previous plan could keep it, noting polices are being canceled for those who buy their own coverage instead of getting it through their jobs or Medicare and Medicaid.

"For these Americans the new promise is, 'if you want health care, go find it on a website the administration says won't be working properly until the end of November,' " Alexander said, calling it "an unwelcome Christmas present."

Democratic Chairman Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa noted the benefits already in place from Obamacare, and encouraged Republicans to work on fixing problems instead of trying to undermine the program.

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