E-mails went to potential customers who were frozen out of the website.
WASHINGTON — The government began sending 275,000 e-mail messages Tuesday to people who have not been able to enroll in the federal health care exchange system.
The e-mails invite people to come back to the site to reattempt enrollment, said Julie Bataille, spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Those who received the messages had become "stuck" in the enrollment process, Bataille said. As many potential customers tried to log in to the site, which opened Oct. 1, they received error messages, or as they tried to create security questions, they were sent back to begin the process again.
"The site is getting better each week, and by the end of November, the site will be moving smoothly for the majority of users," Bataille said.
The administration will release enrollment numbers this week, Bataille said, although she did not specify a date or time.
Tuesday's announcement follows a week of leaked and projected insurance exchange enrollment numbers, as well as updates on the progress of HealthCare.gov, which was taken down for several hours over the holiday weekend for more updates and fixes.
The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that 40,000 to 50,000 people have enrolled in an insurance plan through the federal exchange. Bataille said she could not confirm that number. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said last week that the numbers would be low.
When Massachusetts rolled out its program, just 0.3% of the enrollees signed up in the first month, Bataille said, repeating an oft-cited statistic.
"Given the Massachusetts experience, we expect our initial numbers will be low and grow over time," she said.
Also Monday, Avalere Health, a health advisory company, released an analysis showing that 12 state exchanges have enrolled about 3% — or 49,100 people — of what they expect to during the six-month enrollment period. Avalere expects those states to enroll 1.4 million people by the end of March.
Three percent of the target population is "less than what you want to see at this point," said Dan Mendelson, Avalere's CEO.
"But they have time to turn this around," Mendelson said. "They have not really started to do the major visibility and advertising push."
When Medicare Part D rolled out, only 10% of enrollments had signed up one month later. An additional two-thirds signed up after coverage began, Mendelson said.
Despite the early problems, Mendelson said, failure is not an option for the Affordable Care Act. The Obama administration's political future is too tied to its success or failure, he said. Also, Mendelson said, insurance companies have too much invested in the law.
"It's slower than what you would expect, but the companies that are offering this insurance are in it for the long time," he said. "They have to be."
There has been some good news for the Obama administration this week: New York officials announced today that 48,162 people had enrolled in the state exchange, while 197,011 people had completed the full process and may enroll in plans.
Enroll America, a group devoted to enrolling Americans in the exchanges, said it had reached 302,000 people in person or by phone and has raised $27 million since March to continue its efforts.
Interest in the exchanges doubled from August to September, then doubled again from September to October, said Anne Filipic, Enroll America's president. She acknowledged that the website problems caused a slowdown in progress, but "we're going back to the folks we've already had a conversation with." About 30,000 people have said they are uninsured and they want insurance, she said.
Bataille said four teams are working to fix software and infrastructure problems. They've doubled the number of servers to meet the high demand, overhauled the account registration process so they can handle 17,000 registrants per hour, tested the system to create a list of things that need to be fixed, and replaced a virtual database with a "high capacity physical database." She said they've reduced the error rate from 6% to 2%.
They fixed "dozens" of issues, Bataille said, such as creating user alerts so people know they can't use subsidies on catastrophic coverage, as well as allowing people to upload documents to the system. This has led to a smoother process, Bataille said.
The Congressional Budget Office projected 7 million people would sign up for the exchanges in the first year.
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