US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions

A Guide to the Obamacare Exchange “Glitches”

Answers to Americans’ biggest questions about what’s going wrong

Tuesday, October 08, 2013Liz Wolgemuth (202) 224-8584

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“I've been warning that a train wreck is coming with this law, but the truth is that no train wreck has ever had this many warning signs.” – Lamar Alexander

 

WASHINGTON, Oct. 8 – The Obama administration persisted with the roll out of the Obamacare exchanges on October 1, despite countless warning signs that the exchanges were not ready to handle the millions of Americans required to purchase health insurance or face tax penalties from the individual mandate.

As Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the senior Republican on the Senate committee overseeing private health insurance, said in August: "I've been warning that a train wreck is coming with this law, but the truth is that no train wreck has ever had this many warning signs. The avalanche of last-minute delays should make every American anxious about the quality of the health care they'll be able to purchase in October and the security of the information they'll have to provide—proving again that this law must be repealed so that we can pass step-by-step reforms that transform the health care delivery system by putting patients in charge, giving them more choices, and reducing the cost of health care so that more people can afford it."

Here are answers to some of the biggest questions about the rollout of the insurance exchanges:

With three years to prepare, why wasn’t the administration ready for this?

  • They figured the American people wouldn’t mind:
    • “Aneesh Chopra, who preceded Mr. Park as the federal government’s chief technology officer and helped create an earlier version of healthcare.gov, said he was confident that the system would be working effectively in the coming weeks…. ‘This is par for the course for large-scale I.T. projects,’ Mr. Chopra said. ‘We wish we could launch bug-free, but in reality that’s not that easy to do. The reality is that if you have a product that people want, people will tolerate glitches because they expect them.’” http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/08/us/health-exchange-delays-tied-to-software-crash-in-early-rush.html?hp

Why is it taking so long to get an application started?

  • System failure:
  • Flawed estimates from the administration:

Why is it so hard to complete an application?

  • Bad software:
    • “As few as 1 in 100 applications on the federal exchange contains enough information to enroll the applicant in a plan… ‘This is not a traffic issue,’ [said Dan Mendelson, CEO of consulting firm Avalere Health]. ‘Right now, the systems aren't working.’” http://www.cnbc.com/id/101087965#_gus

Why is the application so confusing?

Why is it so hard to determine my Medicaid eligibility?

  • Technical problems:

How many people have been affected by exchange “glitches”?

  • Almost everyone who tried to use the exchanges:
    • From comments posted on Healthcare.gov:
      • “What an exercise in complete stupidity. I've spent days trying to just log on. I go from one ‘downstream error’ screen to another ‘oops, we're sorry’ screen.”
      • “15 tries (with 3 different browsers) to actually get registered; 5 tries to, once registration complete, to get to the log in screen; 4 tries to get the login screen to accept info; 7 tries on an application submittal which then led to a phone verification effort…I give up.”
    • “Carl Bidleman made his first attempt at buying insurance under the health law at midnight on Tuesday, the moment the marketplaces opened. He couldn't get the site to load and the representative at a call center suggested trying again in the morning. So he did, at 8 a.m., after walking his dog and brewing a cup of coffee. And again that afternoon. And that evening. Twenty-one attempts tries and 36 hours later, Bidleman had found the holy grail: Successfully purchasing a health insurance policy.”  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/10/04/for-some-shoppers-buying-obamacare-is-turning-into-a-marathon/
    • “[F]ederal officials could face a situation in January in which relatively large numbers of people believe they have coverage starting that month, but whose enrollment applications have not been processed.”  http://www.cnbc.com/id/101087965#_gus

Will the security of my information be in danger on these systems?

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