Nightly News   |  November 04, 2013

Obamacare applications must maneuver online maze

Regardless of whether people apply for insurance in person, over the phone or on paper, everyone’s information must be entered into the same portal.  NBC’s Peter Alexander reports.

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>>> the white house tonight says they have made a lot of progress this weekend fixing the obama care website, but the sign-up page which has been plagued with problems from the start will go off line now every day from 1:00 to 5:00 in the morning eastern time while that so-called tech surge team works to get it right. it is clear the problems with the website cannot be avoided by applying on the phone or in person as the president has been suggesting. more tonight from peter alexander .

>> reporter: in miami today christina is one of thousands of navigators helping americans sign up for health insurance off line.

>> in the beginning it was working but with glitches. now it's just down. now the paper application is what we are doing.

>> reporter: that's what president obama has urged consumers to do -- bypass the website and apply for insurance the old fashioned way like he did tonight.

>> they can apply by phone, by mail, in person. there was a time when the internet didn't exist.

>> reporter: internal obama administration memos showed that won't solve the problem. the same portal is used to determine eligibility no matter how the application is submitted the -- paper or online. one memo says the paper applications allow people to feel they are moving forward in the process and provides another option. at the end of the day , we are all stuck in the same queue. today they said people can turn to navigators.

>> we never said the end point of the process wouldn't have to go through health care .gov.

>> reporter: that means your personal information has to maneuver a complex online maze. first the website must be accessed. then all personal data has to be registered and verified. next the system must determine eligibility for government subsidies. that information lets consumers shop for a plan. when you finally choose a policy, all that data must be trance lated into a different format that the insurance companies can read.

>> this program will crumble if you don't find ways to deal with the challenge right now.

>> reporter: democratic allies are even calling for a time-out.

>> shutting the program down for 60, 90, 120 days . i would rather see that and the political fallout than a program that limps along over the next several months.

>> reporter: health policy experts say the enrollment information sent to insurance companies is still badly flawed. as for the internal memos about applying off line, tonight an administration official says they are notes, not official meeting minutes and they are several weeks old before they say significant progress was made with