Pressure mounts to fix Obamacare insurance exchanges

Overloaded websites, jammed phone lines demonstrate interest in new system, but could dampen consumers' enthusiasm if not corrected soon
Associated Press
Oct 3, 2013

The pressure is on for the federal government and states running their own health insurance exchanges to get the systems up and running after overloaded websites and jammed phone lines frustrated consumers for a second day as they tried to sign up for coverage using the new marketplaces.

In some ways, the delays that persisted Wednesday were good news for President Barack Obama and supporters of his signature domestic policy achievement because the holdups showed what appeared to be exceptionally high interest in the overhauled insurance system. But if the glitches aren't fixed quickly, they could dampen enthusiasm for the law at the same time Republicans are using it as a rallying cry to keep most of the federal government closed.

"It was worse today than it was yesterday," Denise Rathman of Des Moines said after she tried for a second day to log onto the Iowa site.

Rathman has insurance through Dec. 31 but said she is eager to sign up for a policy because of her psoriatic arthritis, which has caused her to be denied insurance in the past.

David Berge, a pastor with two young children in Shoreview, Minn., tried unsuccessfully at least 10 times to create an online account on the state-run site MNsure. His high-deductible plan expires at the end of the year.

"I'm anxious to see what the insurance is going to look like for my family at the beginning of the year," Berg said. "That's a big unknown right now. I want to figure that out as soon as possible so we can begin planning."

In California, home to 15 percent of the nation's uninsured, officials pulled the enrollment portion of the Covered California site down overnight for emergency upgrades. It was restored midmorning Wednesday, and 7,770 people had started applications by then, spokesman Roy Kennedy said.

California is one of a handful of mostly Democratic states that opted to set up their own exchanges rather than let the federal government do it for them. In the 36 states being operated by the federal Department of Health and Human Services, consumer patience was still being tested.

Agency spokeswoman Joanne Peters said many Americans successfully enrolled on the first day, but she declined to put a number on it. She said the delays were due to "overwhelming interest" and high volume.

It's not as if nobody warned them. Just three months ago, the congressional Government Accountability Office said a smooth and timely rollout could not be guaranteed because the online system was still getting finishing touches and had not been fully tested.

The Obama administration shrugged off the evaluation.

The bumpy debut has the hallmarks of a technology project that may have rushed to meet the Oct. 1 deadline, said Bill Curtis, chief scientist at CAST, a software quality analysis firm, and director of the Consortium for IT Software Quality, which develops standards.

"When you are in a rush, you typically make a lot of mistakes and you don't have time to test them all out," he said.

High volume can also expose software flaws that were not detected in testing, Curtis said, like the recurring problem consumers encountered trying to set up accounts on the federal site. Drop-down menus that were supposed to provide security questions did not work.

The department issued survival tips for aggravated consumers after 4.7 million unique visitors logged in to the healthcare.gov website on Tuesday. As new health insurance markets went live around the country, the federal call center also received 190,000 calls.

In suburban Cleveland, Sharon Schorr finally gave up on the federal exchange website after eight hours of failed clicks.

"It almost reminded me of going online and trying to buy Springsteen tickets," said Schorr, a self-employed accountant who works for her husband's recruiting firm in Orange, Ohio.

Others simply resorted to old-fashioned pen and paper.

Luis Veloz, a college student in Dallas, was so eager to have insurance that he had already mailed in a paper application by Tuesday night. He is hoping to avoid racking up major bills like his parents, who incurred $250,000 in debt when his father had a heart attack.

"It's an exciting moment because my family has never had preventative care," Veloz said.

Workers at the Florida Association of Community Health Centers printed out applications ahead of time.

"We don't care about the politics. This is about people so we were trying to make it easy for the patients," President and CEO Andy Behrman said.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, said the law also known as Obamacare was working well because his state embraced the health reform law early on instead of fighting it. The state received 373 applications for coverage by the end of Tuesday.

"Because we took the time and effort to be ready, to handle the calls, to have our ducks in a row if you will, we are in far better shape than those states and governors that have turned their back on this historic program and historic offering," Malloy said.

The Obama administration hopes to sign up 7 million people during the first year. Using an expansion of Medicaid or government-subsidized plans, the White House would eventually like to cover at least half of the nearly 50 million Americans who are uninsured.

Many states expect people to sign up closer to the Dec. 15 deadline to enroll for coverage starting Jan. 1. Most customers will need to pay the first month's premium when they do, which could lead them to put off choosing, said Bob Dickes, director of sales and marketing for the nonprofit insurer Oregon's Health CO-OP.

"I expect people to shop and see what's out there," Dickes said.

Customers have until the end of March to sign up to avoid tax penalties.

Under the law, health insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to someone with a pre-existing medical condition and cannot impose lifetime caps on coverage. They also must cover a list of essential services, ranging from mental health treatment to maternity care.

Comments

gene44870

I know this is a sore spot on everyones mind these days . But the fact of the matter is I take my hat off to Obama for at least putting forth an effort to make it possiable for People to be able to afford health care , But like every new law that comes into affect there are going to be flows and changes maybe needed to make Health care in this country would it should have been years ago.
The sad part is that you have to remember that The Obama plan was {so I have read somewhere?} was started threw the REPUBLICIAN PARTY .
All Obama did was fight to make this a law . If anyone recalls H.clinton tried the same thing while she and Bill were in Office and The Repulicans shot it down . And I am not sure if it even went to a vote back then
This is just a little food for thought people .

looking around

Gene44870 You hit it right on the nose! It's obvious by the number of people trying to sign up or at least get first hand information on the Affordable Health Care Act through official points of contact that there is a great interest in acquiring, inquiring , or comparing facts and figures with known available coverage. Why do the tea tards and republicans feel they are speaking and acting on behalf of the American people? They are obstructionists plain and simple. This law has nothing to do with the job of negotiating a budget! Yes as we have seen the beta roll out of providing information and registration access needs some tweaking, leave that to the tech people. Yes there may be some tweaking need be made to some aspects of the law, that can be addressed as we move forward with providing American population with a badly needed means of coverage for the health needs that we all face. It may be far from perfect, but it's a starting point. It is time for congress to get back to the task at hand, negotiating a national budget which may be less than perfect as well, but better than nothing!

gene44870

Thank you My Gammer and spelling may leave a lot to be desired , But I think I get the messege across

grumpy

Are you claiming that obamacare is the same thing as what clinton proposed in the 90's and what some republican proposed at sometime in the past? Were there any additions to those things? Was anything not included in obamacare that was in either of these? I don't remember them as being the same to each other let alone being the same as obamacare. I didn't think any of those proposals being 1/10 as long, nor requiring everyone to be covered, and many other things. But then you have shown us all that proof that you are correct, so I must be mistaken. Did each of them include the medical device tax that is in obamacare? How about the tax on the so-called Platnum insurance plans? Did they have the same State insurance sign ups as obamacare?

The Big Dog's back

Troll.

Ned Mandingo

welcome to socialized healthcare. dont expect it to get any better

Dr. Information

Out of the 10,000 uninsured in Conn, only 160 signed up on opening day. 1/2 of which, were there looking to sign up for medicaid so that leaves 80. Yup, they are busting down the doors.

looking around

A little better than that actually, but most at this time are seeking information and will decide what plan is best for them before the deadline. The requests for information from the exchanges are a good representation as to interest.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/20...

Contango

"The requests for information from the exchanges are a good representation as to interest."

Anyone who has dealt with websites, knows that the number of "hits" is essentially meaningless.

BTW: Isn't Medicaid for the uninsured? Why the need for Obam☭are?

looking around

"Anyone who has dealt with websites, knows that the number of "hits" is essentially meaningless"

Really? Better tell business owners, advertisers, social media and the like your findings, I'm sure they would be interested.

BTW medicare is being expanded to help those whom even with the affordable health care act my be so impoverished that they not be able to provide for themselves will have coverage.

The affordable health care act will help those who previously could not get or afford coverage at least a basic form of protection for themselves and family. Depending on each individuals ability and needs assistance will be given to make the coverage affordable to them.

Employers with enough full time workers to meet the levels of the mandate, who were formerly unable or unwilling to provide their employees with coverages will have the opportunity to receive incentives and tax deductions to provide coverage at reduced group rates.

Those who are sufficiently wealthy enough to provide for themselves by any means they choose may do so.

The fact is if everyone has coverage and pays into the system the less default on services rendered thus lower costs for all.

"why the need" for the affordable health care act you ask?

Unless you have spent your life with your head in the sand or elsewhere, it should be obvious.

Contango

Re: "Really?"

Yea. Better learn the meaning of the word "hits."

One person can be responsible for multiple "hits."

You're as ignorant on web terminology as you are on the severe limitations of Obam☭are.

looking around

"Yea. Better learn the meaning of the word "hits."

One person can be responsible for multiple "hits."

So 167 people are responsible for over 10,000 hits? Who is ignorant now?

Contango

Re: "So 167 people are responsible for over 10,000 hits?"

Entirely possible, it depends on how graphically rich the pages viewed were:

"There is a high potential for confusion here, because log analysis also involves the interpretation of ‘hits’. The hits recorded by log files are much more numerous, and do not individually represent individual human ‘hits’ or ‘clicks’.

The hits recorded by log files each represent a single pieces of information (for example a graphic such as a gif) which, when taken together, make up page views.

In log file analysis a single page view can generate dozens of hits, depending on how much information is being called up, in terms of graphics, etc. Therefore it is important to always find out the definition of a hit in the system that you are using."

http://www.opentracker.net/artic...

grumpy

If you can't get through by computer for obamacare try calling on the phone.

http://dailycaller.com/2013/10/0...

Hard to believe this number is just a happy coincidence. It is fitting though...

Bet the late night comics will have a field day with this... May just have to watch TV for once.

Pterocarya frax...

Thanks for the link grumps. I see a lot of the same haters post on there as well as this site.

Darwin's choice

A doctor's take on Obamacare, only one sentence....!! From two years ago...!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y...

Raises way to many questions....

The Big Dog's back

To late to turn back now. ROFLMAO!

Darwin's choice

Well azzhat, it was just to show morons, such as yourself, that even then people who had read and comprehended the ACA, could see it was a farce. So, hows that polishing going? And, since you have been cheerleading the most for it, have you signed up yet? Another bullchiting loudmouth!

Darwin's choice

From the McAfee anti-virus founder...: "How open is this sign up website?"

"Oh, it’s seriously bad. Somebody made a grave error, not in designing the program but in simply implementing the web aspect of it. For example, anybody can put up a web page and claim to be a broker for this system. There is no central place where I can go and say, OK, here are all the legitimate brokers, the examiners for all of the states, and pick and choose one. Instead, any hacker can put a website up, make it look extremely competitive, and because of the nature of the system — this is health care, after all — they can ask you the most intimate questions, and you’re freely going to answer them. What’s my Social Security number? My birth date? … Here’s the problem. It’s not something software can solve. I mean, what idiot put this system out there and did not create a central depository? There should be one website, run by the government, you go to that website and then you can click on all of the agencies. This is insane. So, I will predict that the loss of income for the millions of Americans who are going to lose their identities — I mean, you can imagine some retired lady in Utah, who’s $75,000 dollars in the bank, saving her whole life — having it wiped out one day because she signed up for ObamaCare. And believe me, this is going to happen millions of times. This is a hacker’s wet dream. I cannot believe that they did this. … ObamaCare itself is the loosest of all. You can imagine the type of information: Medical records, personal issues, psychological issues. I mean, the government’s going to know everything in the world about everyone very soon."

Go ahead Obamabots, put it out there for everyone! I dare you!

SamAdams

Darwin's Choice is right. The Obamacare sign up site has holes in it you could drive a truck through (and you'd better believe that hackers know it and will take advantage of it). In fact, the holes in the Website are equalled ony by the holes in the program itself. This is going to be fun, especially for those of us who aren't stupid enough to sign up online!

I'd also second Contango's comments concerning site "hits." Hits are largely meaningless. Any number of them can be generated by a few people. Worse, any number of them can be generated by 'bots searching around the Web for whatever. The only way to tell if the "hits" are actually intentional AND are there for a reason is to analyze the length of time each visitor stays and to isolate visitors by unique IPs. I notice the feds aren't releasing THOSE stats...

Meanwhile, don't excuse the hits vs. sign-ups disparity by suggesting people are just trying to get information. I checked out the site myself to see if it would load, how busy it was, etc., and you can't GET any information without initiating a sign-up!

The Big Dog's back

Obama Care Obama Care Obama Care.

Darwin's choice

Obama fail!! Sign up yet but licker? You're in jack wagon company...:

http://www.thecalreport.com/2013...

Not one enrolled!! Well coasterfan, whats up you liar?

Darwin's choice

"Our government is working harder to keep veterans our of a national monument than illegals out of the country. I'm sure the founding fathers are proud."

Way to go Obama!!

Darwin's choice

The daily failure reports keep coming in...:

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-250_...

Coasterfan, big dog, deertracker, shizzle, have you loudmouths put your family's at risk by signing up?? I'll bet $100 you phony's haven't!

You better wait "to see whats in it" Hahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!

Erie County Resident

"Pressure mounts to fix Obamacare"....
Bad news ... You can't fix stupid.

The Big Dog's back

Yes. You're a classic case.