D-Day, H-Hour for healthcare.gov

This is the day that America has been waiting for. It's the promised date that will see the Obamacare website healthcare.gov become usuable for "most" people.

Can you feel the excitement building? The anticipation is killing us.


A crucial weekend for the troubled website that is the backbone of President Barack Obama's healthcare overhaul appears to be off to a shaky start, as the U.S. government took the HealthCare.gov site offline for an unusually long maintenance period into Saturday morning.

Just hours before the Obama administration's self-imposed deadline to get the insurance shopping website working for the "vast majority" of its users by Saturday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that it was taking down the website for an 11-hour period that would end at 8 a.m. EST on Saturday.

I don't think they'd take the site down for 11 hours if it was going to work as promised, do you?

It was unclear whether the extended shutdown of the website - about seven hours longer than on typical day - represented a major setback to the Obama administration's high-stakes scramble to fix the portal that it hopes eventually will enroll about 7 million uninsured and under-insured Americans under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

At the very least, the shutdown suggested that nine weeks after the website's disastrous launch on October 1 prevented most applicants from enrolling in coverage and ignited one of the biggest crises of Obama's administration, U.S. officials are nervous over whether Americans will see enough progress in the website to be satisfied.

For the administration and its Democratic allies, the stakes are enormous.

Forget Obama. Forget the Democrats. How about the stakes for the millions of Americans who lost their insurance and won't have any coverage unless the darn things work right?

After weeks of round-the-clock upgrades of software and hardware, Obama officials said they were poised to successfully double its capacity by this weekend, to be able to handle 50,000 insurance shoppers at one time.

But if the website does not work for the "vast majority" of visitors this weekend as the administration has promised, uninsured Americans from 36 states could face problems getting coverage by an initial December 23 deadline.

It also could create ripples that extend to the 2014 elections when control of the U.S. House of Representatives (now controlled by Republicans) and the Senate (now led by Democrats) will be up for grabs.

The White House has gone so far as to tell its Obamacare boosters to urge people not to visit the site for fear that it will crash again. That doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement for the work that has been done these last 9 weeks to get the site up and running.

The White House will spin whatever happens as a vast improvement over how the site worked previously. But that won't matter to most people who will try - and fail - to use the site today and in the days ahead.