Updated 2:02 pm ET, 12/7/2013
Washington (CNN) - Congress itself is now having so much trouble signing up for the Obamacare exchanges that late Friday the top administrator in the House of Representatives laid out a backup plan in case lawmakers and staff can't get through the process by the time their enrollment ends Monday.
The red flags started reaching critical mass Thursday and Friday, when some staff and members of Congress told House administrators they were having trouble enrolling through the Washington health exchange, known as DC Health Link. The D.C. exchange is the official signup portal for Congress, where members must go to get health care through their job.
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Thursday night the chief administrative officer of the House sent an e-mail, obtained by CNN, to thousands of Congressional staffers bluntly describing a problem.
"We have made the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and DC Health Link aware of the significant problems preventing Members and staff... from enrolling in a healthcare plan via the DC Health Link website," Dan Strodel wrote.
But the spokesman for DC Health Link, Richard Sorian, disputed that anyone has been blocked from enrollment.
"We have not had any capacity problems," he told CNN. Sorian said that volume has increased as Congress nears the Dec. 9 deadline for its enrollment.
So far, Sorian says, one-third of all Congressional members and workers who are designated to go on the exchange have enrolled. About half have filled out applications and started looking at plans.
That leaves a large group that has not enrolled yet and could mean a rush of people signing up Monday, though Sorian notes that many eligible staffers may be getting healthcare elsewhere, such as through a spouse's plan.
Among those who still need to enroll are many members of Congress.
"I tried to get on the exchange, so did my staff, but none of us could," House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Kentucky, told CNN.
"I tried to get on the website for over an hour," echoed Rep. Randy Weber, R-Texas.
The reports of problems led to an unusual step by Strodel – setting up a backup plan. He sent an e-mail Friday night to all members and staff designated to go onto the exchanges. The e-mail, also obtained by CNN, stipulates that anyone who tries to get through the D.C. exchange but can't enroll by the end of the day Monday will have an additional week to contact his office and sign up.
In addition, Strodel took the unusual step of opening up House payroll and benefits offices this weekend so that staffers and members could come in person to see if their enrollment has been confirmed by the DC Health Link.
While many offices expressed frustration with signup at the end of the week, a large number of staffers also insisted that the process worked smoothly for them.
Sabrina Singh, an aide to Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Illinois, told CNN that she enrolled in the D.C. exchange in 15 minutes Thursday. As has been the case across the Obamacare exchanges, it could have been a problem of peak usage overwhelming the system.
"I know some people were frustrated, but I went later in the day and enrolled with no problem," Singh said.
Singh admitted that other staffers had trouble getting on the site.
The mixed experience will end Monday one way or the other. The DC Health Link will only allow congressional staffers to sign up until then. After that, anyone who couldn't enroll in a plan will have to go to the backup plan.