By Roberta Rampton and Sharon Begley WASHINGTON (Reuters) - HealthCare.gov, the ailing website handling health insurance sales under President Barack Obama's healthcare law, will soon be able to handle 50,000 simultaneous users, the top official charged with making it work said Friday. Jeffrey Zients, the Obama administration's HealthCare.gov troubleshooter, said that figure is the capacity the site's architects originally intended. The increase in capacity also will come from a doubling of the system's hardware capacity, planned for this weekend, he said. By going through the "punch list" of needed fixes to the information technology (IT) underlying the online insurance marketplace, Zients said, computer experts had improved the site's response time to less than one second, from the original eight seconds, and reduced the error rate to 0.75 percent from 6 percent a few weeks ago.
By Phil Stewart HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced on Friday the Pentagon's first Arctic strategy to guide changes in military planning as rapidly thawing ice reshapes global commerce and energy exploration, possibly raising tensions along the way. "This includes Russia." (Reporting by Phil Stewart;
Americans hoping to sign up for health insurance under President Barack Obama's healthcare reform law will have an additional eight days to do so for coverage to begin January 1, 2014, officials said on Friday. Officials at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said they had no plans to extend the ultimate deadline of March 31, 2014, the date when people without insurance must enroll in a plan or face a tax penalty. That decision reflects, in part, optimism that the website will continue to improve: the site will soon be able to handle 50,000 simultaneous users, said Jeffrey Zients, the Obama administration's HealthCare.gov adviser, and 800,000 people per day, largely because of the more than 300 software and other fixes that technology teams have made to the site over the last seven weeks.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - There has been no decision made yet on whether U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will go to Geneva for Iran nuclear talks, the State Department said on Friday. A department spokeswoman said even if Kerry traveled to Geneva "it's not a prediction of the outcome." (Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Doina Chiacu)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration will push back the open enrollment season for Obamacare health insurance in 2015 by a month to give insurance companies more time to determine their rates, the White House said on Friday. (Reporting by Roberta Rampton, Jeff Mason, Steve Holland; Editing by Doina Chiacu)
By Gary Robertson RICHMOND, Virginia (Reuters) - A prominent Virginia state politician was released Friday from a hospital after he was stabbed several times this week in what police believe was an attempted murder by his son, officials said. State Senator Creigh Deeds, a Democrat who ran for governor in 2009, was attacked on Tuesday at his home in western Virginia. He was taken by helicopter to University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville in critical condition. His son, Austin C. "Gus" Deeds, was found by police wounded inside the senator's house and later died.