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A busy screen is shown on the laptop of a Certified Application Counsellor as he attempted to enroll an interested person for Obamacare at the Borinquen Medical Center in Miami on Oct. 2, 2013. (Joe Skipper/Reuters)
A busy screen is shown on the laptop of a Certified Application Counsellor as he attempted to enroll an interested person for Obamacare at the Borinquen Medical Center in Miami on Oct. 2, 2013. (Joe Skipper/Reuters)

Obamacare website better, but crash still feared if too many use it Add to ...

By now, the sequence of events is clear: a botched Oct. 1 website launch of U.S. President Barack Obama’s new health-insurance market, repeated apologies by Mr. Obama and promises to fix the site, followed by anecdotal evidence that user experience had improved and enrolment numbers were increasing.

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However, fearing too much of a good thing – a sharp increase in traffic to the health-care site that could potentially cause it to crash – administration officials are telling their allies to hold off on upcoming sign-up drives.

The New York Times reported that the Obama administration is touting improvements to the website and overall user experience. But it is trying to strike a delicate balance: getting people to visit the site, but hopefully not too many.

According to the Times, administration officials told members of the Service Employees International Union and Enroll America to hold back on a December enrolment drive. Already anticipating higher than normal website traffic, Jennifer Palmieri, the White House communications director, reportedly told the groups: “You shouldn’t be driving traffic.”

The Obama administration had hoped to sign up 700,000 people to a health-insurance plan through its site, but website problems meant that only 50,000 had enrolled by mid-November. That figure is double what it was a month earlier when the site experienced its worst stretch and visitors complained that it was painfully slow and often crashed.

Mr. Obama has since seen his approval rating drop to the lowest level during his presidency because of the problem-plagued rollout of his signature health-care law.

On Tuesday, The Washington Post’s Wonkblog reported a smooth experience navigating the HealthCare.gov site, corroborating other similar reports. “It won’t work perfectly by the end of November but it might well work tolerably early in December. A political system that’s become overwhelmingly oriented towards pessimism on Obamacare will have to adjust as the system’s technological infrastructure improves,” Wonkblog’s Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas wrote.

A CNN/ORC poll released this week indicated that a majority of Americans, or 54 per cent, expressed optimism that the problems with Obamacare would eventually be fixed. According to the poll, 45 per cent believe that the law was fatally flawed – an argument that opponents of the administration are making ahead of key midterm elections in 2014 when U.S. voters will decide who will control the Senate and the House of Representatives.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie voiced the frustration of many in the United States when he told a radio station on Monday night that Obamacare is a failure. “This is just an awful law. It made no sense and that’s why I didn’t get into a state [health-insurance] exchange. And no, I have absolutely no regrets. In fact, I’m really glad that the train wreck’s not mine; it’s his,” said Mr. Christie, according to CNN.

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