The federal government will take down a critical part of HealthCare.gov, the Obamacare web portal, for a portion of the coming weekend as programmers feverishly work to fix major glitches that are impeding enrollment and marring the debut of the centerpiece of President Barack Obama's health care reform law.

Since HealthCare.gov went live on Oct. 1, visitors have faced widespread and persistent problems accessing the website. The site is supposed to let the uninsured and people who buy their own health insurance directly compare health plans by price and benefits and learn whether they qualify for financial help. The Obama administration has cited higher-than-expected traffic to the site as the cause of the problems, and claims to have made progress during the health insurance exchanges' first four days.

The administration will not allow users to fill out applications for coverage on HealthCare.gov between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. EDT Saturday, Sunday and Monday mornings, allowing programmers to write fixes to the website, the Department of Health and Human Services announced late on Friday. This part of the website was down early Friday morning as well, Joanne Peters, a spokeswoman for the department, disclosed on Twitter after the announcement.

"To make further improvements to the system, we will be taking down the application part of the website for scheduled maintenance during off-peak hours over the weekend. The enhancements we are making will enable more simultaneous users to successfully create an account and move through the application and plan shopping process," reads a press release from the department. "We expect that Monday, less than a week after the marketplace opening, there will be significant improvements in the online consumer experience." The federal Obamacare telephone call center will remain open, the department said.

Washington state has employed a similar approach with its Washington Healthplanfinder in recent days and also claimed progress.

Technological snafus have characterized the rollout of the biggest, most visible aspect of Obama's health overhaul during its first few days. While the enrollment period for 2014 health insurance benefits lasts for six months, continued trouble with a system billed as an easy, one-stop shop could discourage consumers, while handing Obamacare's political opponents evidence that the health care reform program is unworkable.

HealthCare.gov has logged 8.6 million unique visitors since Tuesday, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Two-thirds of those people used the exchange website to shop for health insurance and begin applications, while the rest viewed educational information, the department reported.

The federal government is running health insurance exchanges in more than 30 states with the remainder of states operating their own. HealthCare.gov and some state-run health insurance exchanges, including New York State of Health and Maryland Health Connection, have faced significant difficulties making their websites' features functional. Exchanges in other states, like Kentucky's Kynect, appear to be moving ahead with enrollment comparatively smoothly.

Federal and state officials attribute the technical glitches to high traffic as millions of Americans have attempted to visit the websites -- whether to enroll, window shop or rubberneck. The White House predicted prior to the launch that interest would build over time and downplayed the possibility of a rush during the first week. At the same time, Obama and his lieutenants aggressively promoted the Oct. 1 launch date. On Tuesday, the president encouraged people to visit HealthCare.gov even as the website proved unable to handle the traffic it was already receiving.

The balky system for setting up accounts and logging into HealthCare.gov hasn't prevented some small number of people from applying for health insurance benefits, according the Department of Health and Human Services. The administration won't provide any information about the number of people who have enrolled into health coverage so far, but health insurance companies and a handful of individual customers claim to have made successful navigations of HealthCare.gov this week. Several states operating health insurance exchanges on their own or in partnership with the federal government have reported some enrollment data.

Health insurance consumers -- along with federal and state authorities -- still have time to get past the technological issues, but the window is not unlimited: The open enrollment period runs from Oct. 1 through March 31 and consumers must select a health plan by Dec. 15 to ensure their benefits are in effect on Jan. 1. Nearly every legal U.S. resident is required to obtain health coverage next year or face a tax penalty.

The Obama administration aims to sign up 7 million people for private health insurance for 2014, based on the Congressional Budget Office's projections. An additional 9 million people are expected to enroll into Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program for 2014, the budget agency predicts. By 2016, 25 million fewer people will be uninsured than would have been without Obamacare, according to the CBO.

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  • McDonald's

    <a href="http://blogs.wsj.com/cfo/2012/07/23/mcdonalds-cfo-sees-up-to-420m-in-new-health-care-costs/" target="_blank">Peter Bensen, McDonald's chief financial officer</a>, said on a conference call last year that Obamacare will cost the company and its franchisees $140 million to $420 million per year. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

  • Whole Foods

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/16/whole-foods-ceo-obamacare-fascism_n_2488029.html" target="_blank">John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, told NPR</a> in January that Obamacare is "like fascism." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/17/whole-foods-fascism_n_2496603.html" target="_blank">He then told HuffPost Live</a> that he regretted making that comparison. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

  • Papa John's

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/07/papa-johns-obamacare-pizza_n_1752126.html" target="_blank">John Schnatter, CEO of Papa John's</a>, said in August that Obamacare will cost the company $0.11 to $0.14 per pizza. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-h-schnatter/papa-johns-obamacare_b_2166209.html" target="_blank">But he has maintained</a> that Papa John's offers and will continue to offer health insurance to all of its employees. (Photo by Diane Bondareff/Invision for Papa John's International/AP Images)

  • Cheesecake Factory

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/04/cheesecake-factory-ceo-david-overton-obamacare_n_2236673.html" target="_blank">David Overton, CEO of the Cheesecake Factory, told CBS</a> in December that Obamacare "will be very costly" and "most people will have to [raise prices] or cheapen their product" in response. Dina Barmasse-Gray, the Cheesecake Factory's senior vice president of human resources, said in a statement to The Huffington Post: "We have the highest regard for the wellbeing of our staff members, and have offered health insurance to our staff members who work at least 25 hours per week for many years. Because of our long history of providing health benefits, and based on our current analysis of the new requirements, we do not believe the Affordable Health Care Act will have a material impact on us."

  • Boeing

    <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324392804578358540464713464.html" target="_blank">Boeing lobbied unsuccessfully</a> against a new Obamacare fee, according to the Wall Street Journal. And it is generally concerned about Obamacare's costs. "Boeing agrees with the intent of the Affordability Care Act – to provide increased access to coverage, to improve quality, and in the long run, to help manage the overall cost of the health care system," Boeing spokesman Joseph Tedino said in a statement provided to The Huffington Post in March. "However, while the details and implications of the ACA continue to emerge, the net financial impact to Boeing since the inception of law and for the foreseeable future is negative." (Photo by Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images)

  • CKE (Owner Of Hardee's)

    <a href="http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-09-21/hardee-s-owner-ceo-says-2012-ipo-unlikely-as-costs-rise" target="_blank">Andrew Puzder, CEO of CKE, told</a> Bloomberg Businessweek last year that he plans to respond to Obamacare by selling cheaper meats and hiring more part-time workers. <a href="http://www.newsmax.com/RonaldKessler/Hardee-s-CEO-Obamacare-Puzder/2012/09/20/id/456919" target="_blank">He also told Newsmax</a> he plans to build fewer restaurants in response. (Photo by Erik S. Lesser/Getty Images)

  • Jimmy John's

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/15/jimmy-johns-ceo-obamacare_n_2137679.html" target="_blank">Jimmy John's CEO Jimmy John Liautaud told Fox News</a> last year that he plans to cut his workers' hours in order to avoid having to offer them health insurance under Obamacare. "We have to bring them down to 28 hours [per week]," he said. "There's no other way we can survive it."