ObamaCare Exchange Roll-Out: “Could it have been any worse?”

By Dave Andrusko

computer2I was on the treadmill this morning when a headline popped up (actually the “crawl” that appears at the bottom of the television monitor) that read, “Obamcare glitches post-shutdown come under renewed scrutiny.” In case anyone missed it, this signals that we will be seeing even more about the colossally error-ridden roll-out of ObamaCare’s health insurance exchanges than we have the past few weeks.

For Friday’s post, here are a few updates about how not only are there massive problems with enrolling, a real correction is likely to take months, if not longer. Here are four points, based on accounts from last night and today.

#1. It’s hard to rank which difficulty is the most troublesome, but near the top has to be this from the Wall Street Journal:

“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.”

As Christopher Weaver and Louise Radnofsky observe, “The flaws could do lasting damage to the law if customers are deterred from signing up or mistakenly believe they have obtained coverage.” And by “flaws,” they are almost limitless, it seems, including “duplicate enrollments, spouses reported as children, missing data fields and suspect eligibility determinations.”

#2. As Ed Morrissey (and others) have deduced, that’s it only been a trickle of successful enrollees has served to hide the level of error that will be revealed when/if many more manage to enroll. “The reason that insurers can fix the bad data now is that so few people can successfully navigate the exchanges,” Morrissey writes. “When that side improves, the real disaster may begin.” He then quotes the Wall Street Journal’s story:

“As more of those users attempted to sign up for plans this week, insurers began noticing problems with enrollment data. For now, they say they are largely able to manually correct the errors. But as enrollment increases—up to 7 million consumers are expected to sign up in the next 5½ months—that may not be possible, they worry.”

“MANUALLY correct”?!

Writing on National Review Online, Yuval Levin put it this way:

“In a couple of ways, then, the severe user-interface problems at the front end of the federal exchange has actually had some advantages from CMS’s [point of view, because by keeping enrollment volume low it has kept some other huge problems from becoming instantly uncontrollable.”

[The “CMS” is the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the HHS agency that is running the exchanges.]

#3. A system this massively complex needed a lot longer testing period than took place. For a variety of reasons, “full testing of the site was delayed until four to six days before the fateful Oct. 1 launch of the health care exchanges,” according to the Washington Examiner. And, oh by the way, USA Today’s Kelly Kennedy reported

“The federal health care exchange was built using 10-year-old technology that may require constant fixes and updates for the next six months and the eventual overhaul of the entire system, technology experts told USA TODAY.

“The site could be perfect, but if the systems from which it draws data are not up to speed, it doesn’t matter, said John Engates, chief technology officer at Rackspace, a cloud computer service provider.

“’It is a core problem in the sense of it’s fundamental to this thing actually working, but it’s not necessarily a problem that the people who wrote HealthCare.gov can get to,’ Engates said. ‘Even if they had a perfect system, it still won’t work.’”

#4. Finally, health-industry consultant Bob Laszewski summarized his conclusions thusly:

“There was no progress for the new federal health insurance exchange’s information technology and enrollment challenges in its second week.

“At the end of week two of the Obamacare launch, health plans were generally seeing no more enrollments per day then they saw in the first week.

“As troubling, the backroom issues plaguing the connection between health insurers and the federal government had not been resolved and there is no indication from the feds when they will have these things cleared up.”

And none of this even touches on what we’ve talked about all week, including (to name just two of many)”sticker shock”–the same or lesser coverage will cost two or three times as much—and the grim reality that the lowest price plans have gigantic deductibles.

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