By Dave Andrusko
No surprise! As NRL News Today has reported, among the infinite number of things wrong with the rollout of the ObamaCare health insurance exchanges was that “private contractors in charge of the new federal health-insurance Web site” did “not have enough time to thoroughly test the system before its problem-riddled rollout early this month,” which is exactly what they testified to today, the Washington Post reported.
Executives from four contractors came before the House Energy and Commerce Committee today to try to reconcile what they said as recently as September—everything was hunky dory and on track—and the fiasco of the last three+ weeks.
For starters they said rather than having two weeks they were given to conduct testing prior to the October 1 launch, they needed “months.” And, in fact, according to the Post’s Sanhya Somashekhar, Juliet Eilperin, and William Branigin,
“[T]he Web site for the new health insurances exchanges, HealthCare.gov, crashed almost immediately after it opened, when millions of uninsured people were supposed to be able to log on and sign up for coverage that starts next year.”
As one example of how the endless “glitches” have confounded the Administration, ObamaCare requires that almost everyone have health insurance by January 2014 (or face a fine).
“But the administration said Wednesday night that it would give people an extra six weeks — until March 31 — to obtain coverage before they incur a penalty. Officials denied that the extended deadline is related to the many technical problems with HealthCare.gov, saying instead that it is intended to clear up a timing confusion about the 2010 health-care law.”
The bad news keeps rolling in for the Obama Administration, including from (of all places) the New York Times. And they go well beyond the disastrous web site.
Under the headline “Health Care Law Fails to Lower Prices for Rural Areas,” Reed Abelson, Katie Thomas, and Jo Craven McGinty reported
“As technical failures bedevil the rollout of President Obama’s health care law, evidence is emerging that one of the program’s loftiest goals — to encourage competition among insurers in an effort to keep costs low — is falling short for many rural Americans.
“While competition is intense in many populous regions, rural areas and small towns have far fewer carriers offering plans in the law’s online exchanges. Those places, many of them poor, are being asked to choose from some of the highest-priced plans in the 34 states where the federal government is running the health insurance marketplaces, a review by The New York Times has found.
“Of the roughly 2,500 counties served by the federal exchanges, more than half, or 58 percent, have plans offered by just one or two insurance carriers, according to an analysis by The Times of county-level data provided by the Department of Health and Human Services. In about 530 counties, only a single insurer is participating.
“The analysis suggests that the ambitions of the Affordable Care Act to increase competition have unfolded unevenly, at least in the early going, and have not addressed many of the factors that contribute to high prices. Insurance companies are reluctant to enter challenging new markets, experts say, because medical costs are high, dominant insurers are difficult to unseat, and powerful hospital systems resist efforts to lower rates.
“’There’s nothing in the structure of the Affordable Care Act which really deals with that problem,’ said John Holahan, a fellow at the Urban Institute, who noted that many factors determine costs in a given market. ‘I think that all else being equal, premiums will clearly be higher when there’s not that competition.’”
The question quickly is changing from how/when Healthcare.gov can be fixed to considering going back to Square One. At CNN MONEY, Julianne Pepitone advises “To fix Obamacare website, blow it up, start over.”
Consider this (“Bhalla” is Nish Bhalla, CEO of the information-security firm Security Compass):
“But the Obamacare website has bigger problems than simply getting people registered for health care. The code is also riddled with security holes, according to [Dave] Kennedy, who outlined his cybersecurity concerns on Trusted Sec’s company blog.
“’If someone can’t register, that’s obviously bad — but if the information gets hacked, you’re talking about one of the biggest breaches in American history,’ Kennedy said. ‘I think security is an afterthought at this point.”
“That might not be a major issue now, as people are still having trouble logging onto the site. But once it’s up and running, that code had better be made more secure.
“’At this point, the car isn’t even moving,’ Bhalla said. ‘But once we’re speeding down the road, you’re going to want that seatbelt to work.’”