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Emails Show HealthCare.gov Couldn’t Handle 500 Users Before Launch

A test involving a tiny number of users resulted in “a lot of errors” and “eventually the system reached a breakpoint, after which everything started failing.”

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In the final days before the disastrous launch of President Obama's federal health insurance exchange website, HealthCare.gov, officials said the website was unable to handle a tiny number of users, newly released internal emails show.

The documents were made public Thursday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee investigating the rollout and raise new questions as to why the website, which is supposed to serve as a healthcare marketplace for millions, was launched on Oct. 1.

In one email dated Sept. 27, a health official said a test involving 500 concurrent users on the website resulted in "a lot of errors" and "eventually the system reached a breakpoint, after which everything started failing."

The latest revelation comes after another series of emails released Wednesday showed the White House feared the Obamacare website wouldn't function and could become an embarrassment for the administration.

"I DO NOT WANT A REPEAT OF WHAT HAPPENED NEAR THE END OF DECEMBER 2005 WHERE MEDICARE.GOV HAD A MELTDOWN (THIS IS TO GET YOUR ATTENTION IF I DIDN'T HAVE IT ALREADY," Henry Chao, chief information officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told colleagues in a strongly worded email on Sept. 26.

The health insurance exchange website, which cost taxpayers more than $600 million to build, has been mostly crippled since its launch. President Obama has vowed to have it working by the end of the month.

According to the New York Times, as of mid-November, more than 50,000 people had selected an insurance plan on the site, up from just 27,000 in the month of October.

Jon Passantino is a deputy news director for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.

Contact Jon Passantino at jonathan.passantino@buzzfeed.com.

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