Obamacare Sees Social Media Surge Ahead of #Deadline

J. David Ake/AP

HealthCare.gov struggles to meet demand Monday.

Members of the Obama administration weren’t the only ones with eyes fixed on HealthCare.gov, the once glitch-ridden federal health insurance marketplace that was receiving record site visits as consumers tried to buy Obamacare plans before the deadline Monday.

Social media users also were fixated on the landmark health care reform: Terms and hashtags associated with marketing, criticizing and commenting on the law surged over the weekend.

The term “HealthCare.gov” jumped from about 3,500 Twitter mentions on Saturday to more than 10,500 on Sunday, a high for the month, according to a search using the social media analysis tool Topsy. The term “Obamacare” was mentioned about 43,000 times on Twitter on Sunday, nearly the highest count for the month.

Basic Topsy searches don’t reveal whether social mentions are positive or negative.

The Obama administration’s #GetCoveredNow hashtag was trending on Monday and also spiked on Sunday. The White House’s #GeeksGetCovered hashtag, aimed at technology workers without worker-provided health insurance, spiked on Saturday to about 2,200 mentions. #GeeksGetCovered spiked when it was first launched in mid-March but had been largely dormant since then.

The HealthCare.gov website suffered an outage and then began queuing insurance seekers Monday morning, officials told CNBC. The site suffered another glitch around noon before coming back online. The qeue is designed to limit the number of concurrent HealthCare.gov visitors so they don't overload the system. Qeued visitors are asked to either wait or sign up for an email alert when they can return to the site. 

HealthCare.gov hit a peak volume of about 125,000 concurrent users on Monday, officials said, and had serviced about 1.2 million total visitors as of noon. 

The site also saw a record number of visits in the week ending Sunday, according to figures released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. That would seem to bear out Obama administration predictions that enrollment would surge in the days immediately preceding a March 31 deadline.

Those expectations were based on enrollment trends in similar online health insurance marketplaces, including Massachusetts’ state-subsidized insurance system.

HealthCare.gov and state-based marketplaces had enrolled 6 million insurance seekers as of Thursday, putting the administration close to its original goal of signing up 7 million people in Obamacare insurance plans by the time enrollment closes.

About 2 million people visited HealthCare.gov over the weekend and about 8.7 million visited the site in the week ending on Sunday, officials said. As of Sunday the site was performing well with average page response times of less than half one second and an error rate beneath 1 percent.

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