Continuing Obamacare Follies

This is just horrible:

Insurers say the federal health-care marketplace is generating flawed data that is straining their ability to handle even the trickle of enrollees who have gotten through so far, in a sign that technological problems extend further than the website traffic and software issues already identified.

Emerging errors include duplicate enrollments, spouses reported as children, missing data fields and suspect eligibility determinations, say executives at more than a dozen health plans. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Nebraska said it had to hire temporary workers to contact new customers directly to resolve inaccuracies in submissions. Medical Mutual of Ohio said one customer had successfully signed up for three of its plans.

The flaws could do lasting damage to the law if customers are deterred from signing up or mistakenly believe they have obtained coverage.

This is also just horrible. Read the whole thing, and try not to let your jaw hit the floor while you do so.

Peter Suderman lets loose:

The Obama administration doesn’t want to talk about Obamacare. At a press briefing on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney dodged questions about the ongoing failure of the law’s federally-run health insurance portal,, which after two weeks is still practically impenetrable to all but the most dedicated users. Carney refused to say when the exchange might be working, and directed reporters' questions to the agencies in charge of the project. “Those are all questions for HHS and CMS,” he said, referring to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

But the head of HHS isn’t saying much. Following a disastrous interview with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show last week, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has avoided most media inquiries. The head of CMS, Marylyn Tavenner, is staying mum too. She refused to answer questions New York Times reporters posed about the performance of the exchanges.

That’s hardly a shock. What could either of them say? The federal exchange system simply does not work. And the administration has run out of excuses. Even President Obama—who initially excused the exchange problems as being typical of a large technology rollout—has begun to talk more frankly about the system’s flaws. "The website that was supposed to do this all in a seamless way has had way more glitches than I think are acceptable," he said on Tuesday.

It is clear now that, despite occasional suggestions of light at the end of the tunnel, the administration does not know how long the exchange problems will take to fix. At this point, then, it is necessary to at least consider the possibility that the federal exchanges, and perhaps a few of the state-run counterparts as well, are simply not going to work, at least not in the relatively short time the administration has to get the system on track.

Given how little information is available to outsiders, it’s hard to judge with great certainty. It is of course possible that the problems could be resolved in a few days or a few weeks. But the administration’s obfuscations, as well the repeated assurances both before and after the opening of the exchanges that they had everything under control, don't inspire confidence that meaningful fixes are on the way. Already there are signals that the exchange problems could be deep and long-lasting.

Initially, the administration pinned problems with an unexpected amount of traffic. “These bugs were functions of volume," White House technology adviser Todd Park told USA Today.  “Take away the volume and it works.”

That excuse no longer holds up. The volume’s gone, and the website still doesn’t work. Web traffic to dropped 88 percent from October 1, the day the exchanges opened, to October 13, according to data released this week by Kantar US Insights. Yet despite plummeting traffic, many users remained unable to even create the accounts necessary to begin the application process.

No one has been fired over this catastrophe, and scarily enough, there do not even appear to be hints that someone is going to get fired over this catastrophe. Certainly, the Obama administration has not said anything about giving Kathleen Sebelius a chance to spend more time with her family. How much worse does this disaster have to get before the president finally starts demanding some accountability from his team?

Obamacare: Full of Bugs

Now that the shutdown/debt ceiling debacle is over (for the moment, anyway), it is worth focusing anew on Obamacare, because the program truly is dysfunctional, and the depth and breadth of that dysfunctionality deserves our attention. Consider:

  • The Obamacare website didn't even get tested until a week before the launch.
  • The website violates licensing agreements for copyrighted software. Indeed, the Department of Health and Human Services is going to get sued for having engaged in copyright violations.
  • Teal Media, which was the design consultant for the Obamacare website, is taking down all reference to its work on the website because it "doesn’t seem interested in talking about its work on" I can't say that I blame them.
  • As Peter Suderman reports, the Obama administration did not know when the health care law's mandate penalty deadline was until they were informed by a tax preparation company. You have until March 31 of next year to enroll, but if you do not enroll by February 15, you are going to pay a penalty. Quoting Suderman: "This says something about the daunting level of complexity in the tax code. And it's more than a little suggestive about the level of (in)competence that is apparently going into what is arguably the largest and most complex bureaucratic endeavor in the nation's history."
But hey, never let it be said that there is no good news whatsoever surrounding the law. Yesterday, the Weekly Standard reported that someone in Delaware was finally able to enroll in Obamacare. So, you know, progress!