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The state health insurance exchange's online enrollment portal remains down because of a software malfunction that has dogged consumers.

Covered California took the enrollment function offline Wednesday afternoon, and officials initially said engineers hoped to have the service restored Friday.

That target was later postponed until Saturday.

Officials did not go into detail about what's plaguing the website, but said the breakdown was making it harder for people to enroll. The website still remains accessible to people searching for information about health plans and using the "Shop and Compare Tool" to find health care coverage in their regions.

About 828,600 people enrolled in health coverage via the state health insurance exchange through the first two weeks of February, far outpacing other states with marketplaces.

Still, this is not the first time the exchange has struggled with technology glitches. It experienced computer and phone troubles while accepting applications to train health insurance agents, and then with the launch of CoveredCA.com's sign-up portal.

Last month, top officials acknowledged the level of service over the first three months was "completely unacceptable." They said they would try to improve the system's performance for the enrollment period ending March 31.

They endeavored to answer 80 percent of their calls within 30 seconds. But internal reports show only a small fraction of the thousands of calls into its service centers met that goal.

Earlier this month, officials were forced to temporarily discontinue the exchange's provider directory after complaints about errors in the physician list. The directory of doctors and hospitals was posted shortly after the exchange opened for business Oct. 1, but was temporarily taken down within a day of its release because it was plagued by inaccuracies and sluggish performance.

At the time, Executive Director Peter V. Lee said it was put online prematurely.

PHOTO: Peter V. Lee in his office in Sacramento on Dec. 11. The Sacramento Bee/ Randall Benton



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