Former official: Admin refused to bring in outside help for ObamaCare website for fear GOP would subpoena them; Update: Ten-year-old technology? Update: No improvement in week two; Update: Wasn’t tested until days before launch?

posted at 4:41 pm on October 17, 2013 by Allahpundit

Via Lachlan Markay and Ace, who calls it “Nixonian.” This is the rare Hot Air item that might actually make liberals angrier at the White House than conservatives. If you’d staked your party’s credibility on realizing the utopian dream of universal health care only to have Obama deliver this fartburger, you’d be furious. Why anyone on either side still wants Sebelius in charge, I have no idea.

Facing such intense opposition from congressional Republicans, the administration was in a bunker mentality as it built the enrollment system, one former administration official said. Officials feared that if they called on outsiders to help with the technical details of how to run a commerce website, those companies could be subpoenaed by Hill Republicans, the former aide said. So the task fell to trusted campaign tech experts.

Very important to understand: Between this and the fact that HHS deliberately hid the price of insurance behind a reg wall on Healthcare.gov to reduce “rate shock,” the grand takeaway about the website’s failure is that O and his team made it much worse than it needed to be because they were terrified of transparency. And the reason they were terrified of transparency, both in the case of hiding the cost of the premiums from web users and hiding the site’s architectural problems from contractors who might be hauled before Congress, is because they know they’ve delivered a bad product. Put the premiums on the front page and the public, expecting “affordable care,” would recoil at the truth. Put the contractors at the witness table before Issa’s committee and the public, expecting that the government would “fix” health care, would recoil upon discovering that they can’t even build a website with three years’ lead time.

I don’t know what’s more amazing, that they’d place their own political comfort above creating a smoother user experience for the uninsured or that they somehow didn’t realize that a botched rollout on October 1 would be far more embarrassing than contractors talking to Republicans under oath. Or … would it? What was HHS so worried that outside contractors would tell the GOP that they preferred to risk total chaos on the exchanges during launch month instead?

Apropos of nothing, Reuters is now reporting that the budget for the site exploded earlier this year as the Hopenchange brain trust realized they were way, way, way off course. And by “exploded,” I mean “tripled”:

How and why the system failed, and how long it will take to fix, remains unclear. But evidence of a last-minute surge in spending suggests the needs of the project were growing well beyond the initial expectations of the contractor and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“Why this went from a ceiling of $93.7 million to $292 million is hard to fathom,” said Scott Amey, general counsel at the Project on Government Oversight, a Washington, D.C.-based watchdog group that analyzes government contracting.

“Something changed. It suggests they ran into problems and knew last spring that they couldn’t do it for $93.7 million. They just blew through the original ceiling. Where was the contract oversight?”…

The Obama administration was issuing regulations and changing policy regarding how the reform should be implemented late into this summer. Many required significant changes to the IT running Healthcare.gov, which kept contractors scrambling.

We’ll need congressional hearings to find out which regulations forced the IT team to scramble at the eleventh hour to rework the site, but this could be another example of the White House’s desire to hide the uglier parts of this boondoggle creating problems for the website architecture. Remember, it was only this past summer that HHS suddenly decided to eliminate income verification for subsidies for the first year. Applicants will be placed on the “honor system” in reporting their wages, which is basically an invitation to commit fraud — but which serves the end of making those subsidies nice and robust for anyone willing to lie, which encourages enrollment. Could be that they built the site with the income verification tech integrated and then had to tear it out quickly and haphazardly once HHS changed its mind, leading to bugs. Like I say, this is what congressional hearings are for.

Nancy Pelosi, by the way, thinks there’s no reason at all to delay ObamaCare if the exchanges are still a disaster come December, which also happens to be the deadline for enrollment if you want your coverage to begin in January. I’d be surprised if there’s a single manager anywhere in the insurance industry who agrees with her, given the Thunderdome-levels of chaos Glitchapalooza will be causing them next year if this persists much longer.

Update: Merry Christmas, Barack.

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…

Recent changes have made the exchanges easier to use, but they still require clearing the computer’s cache several times, stopping a pop-up blocker, talking to people via Web chat who suggest waiting until the server is not busy, opening links in new windows and clicking on every available possibility on a page in the hopes of not receiving an error message. With those changes, it took one hour to navigate the HealthCare.gov enrollment process Wednesday.

Those steps shouldn’t be necessary, experts said.

“I have never seen a website — in the last five years — require you to delete the cache in an effort to resolve errors,” said Dan Schuyler, a director at Leavitt Partners, a health care group by former Health and Human Services secretary Mike Leavitt. “This is a very early Web 1.0 type of fix.”

You’ll have to read the rest to find out how clearing your cache might actually cause new errors.

Update: Icing on the cake from health-industry consultant Bob Laszewski, who says the system’s scarcely improved after another week of frantic HHS triage:

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.

My sense is that the feds, based upon the number of enrollments they have sent to the insurance companies, enrolled about 10,000 people in the first week (about 5,000 single and family contracts) and another 10,000 people in the second week in the 36 states using the federal exchange.

I guesstimated that the feds were up to 95,000 or so enrollments in my earlier post, less than 20 percent of HHS’s target for October. Laszewski thinks even that number is wildly optimistic. If he’s right and they’re only at 20,000 enrollments total, they’re at less than five percent of their goal.

Update: No one’s getting fired, huh?

The root cause of the problems was a pivotal decision by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services officials to act as systems integrator, the central coordinator for the entire program. Usually this role is reserved for the prime information technology contractor.

As a result, full testing of the site was delayed until four to six days before the fateful Oct. 1 launch of the health care exchanges, the individual said…

“Normally a system this size would need 4-6 months of testing and performance tuning, not 4-6 days,” the individual said.

The source said there were “ever-changing, conflicting and exceedingly late project directions. The actual system requirements for Oct. 1 were changing up until the week before,” the individual said.

How could they have done a worse job?


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Comment pages: 1 2 3 4

Over

Bmore on October 18, 2013 at 10:22 AM

This Obamacare site sounds like a real piece of shit.

Herald of Woe on October 18, 2013 at 10:32 AM

Has anyone here actually gotten a look, personally, at the premiums for the federal exchange? I’ve tried a few times and have always been shut out at some point in the process. But I haven’t had an enormous amount of time. Apologies if this has been answered earlier.

It is oddly appropriate that the thing that in the end, the direct cause of this piece of sh$t’s collapse may well be people simply looking at it.

RINO in Name Only on October 18, 2013 at 10:42 AM

It is oddly appropriate that the thing that in the end, the direct cause of this piece of sh$t’s collapse may well be people simply looking at it.

RINO in Name Only on October 18, 2013 at 10:42 AM

Fixed for clarity. My comment is now more well-though-out and coherent than the Obamacare website.

RINO in Name Only on October 18, 2013 at 10:46 AM

Has anyone here actually gotten a look, personally, at the premiums for the federal exchange? I’ve tried a few times and have always been shut out at some point in the process. But I haven’t had an enormous amount of time. Apologies if this has been answered earlier.

It is oddly appropriate that the thing that in the end, the direct cause of this piece of sh$t’s collapse may well be people simply looking at it.

RINO in Name Only on October 18, 2013 at 10:42 AM

I’ve tried it myself three times. The first time I got as far as typing my name in before it sat there and froze up. The next two times (11:00pm and 12:15am) the site was frozen from “too much activity” (near midnight?)

The documentation here as well as other places make this a fixed disaster, one that could be fixed but will require them to change the basic purposing around building the site.

I very much agree with those that have said this may be the most critical problem facing progressivism today. If this site doesn’t get fixed and soon the whole of their policy may be eviscerated. This is not a “journalist” (what a word) that can be intellectually bribed and who can spin a yarn that’s acceptable to the low-info voter.

This is a direct connection to the consumer of insurance. This is an individual one-on-one with a computer with no one to pre-digest the information given. They can’t fix this without eliminating the connection to the IRS to look up income and they will not show the individual what the real prices are.

This is a disaster of their own making, and they are trapped in eating a sh!Tburger sandwich they made themselves.

Hope they choke on it. :D

itsspideyman on October 18, 2013 at 11:05 AM

It is oddly appropriate that the thing that in the end, the direct cause of this piece of sh$t’s collapse may well be people simply looking at it.

RINO in Name Only on October 18, 2013 at 10:42 AM

Believing what you see as opposed to only seeing what you believe has opened many minds.

(That said, while the scalability of the architecture of the federal exchange / website is pretty limited, the rationale that volume is the root cause of the problems is, simply, absurd. This system has far bigger problems than scalability (and scope creep) – and they root in the foundation of the application / architecture / design.)

Athos on October 18, 2013 at 11:06 AM

RINO in Name Only on October 18, 2013 at 10:42 AM

You are correct. From the USA Today article.

About 70% of those who said they had no issues said they still waited to enroll because they want to think about their options.

Imagine taking hours of your time to actually set up an account just to think about your options. Most of those folks won’t be back. The costs must be outrageous.

txhsmom on October 18, 2013 at 11:10 AM

Officials feared that if they called on outsiders to help with the technical details of how to run a commerce website, those companies could be subpoenaed by Hill Republicans, the former aide said. So the task fell to trusted campaign tech experts.

What does this even mean? Congress can’t subpoena “trusted campaign tech experts”? What law/rule is that?

cptacek on October 18, 2013 at 11:12 AM

cptacek on October 18, 2013 at 11:12 AM

Which is why they only hired “trusted campaign tech experts” instead of people who actually knew what they were doing.

txhsmom on October 18, 2013 at 11:15 AM

What does this even mean? Congress can’t subpoena “trusted campaign tech experts”? What law/rule is that?

cptacek on October 18, 2013 at 11:12 AM

They can subpoena them, but presumably, they will be more willing to lie to congress, and even if they’re unwilling to technically commit perjury for their masters, they would still be much more inclined to filibuster and give evasive and deceptive answers, and be willing to embarrass themselves to protect the administration. Outside contractors would have much more incentive to be candid, and not just to the minimum extent required by law.

RINO in Name Only on October 18, 2013 at 11:23 AM

“Normally a system this size would need 4-6 months of testing and performance tuning, not 4-6 days,” the individual said.

The source said there were “ever-changing, conflicting and exceedingly late project directions. The actual system requirements for Oct. 1 were changing up until the week before,” the individual said.

How could they have done a worse job?

What’s funny is that banks’ and investment firms’ IT projects are not that much better.

Nutstuyu on October 18, 2013 at 11:37 AM

What does this even mean? Congress can’t subpoena “trusted campaign tech experts”? What law/rule is that?

cptacek on October 18, 2013 at 11:12 AM

The law that gives congress subpoena powers. What boat did you just get off of?

Nutstuyu on October 18, 2013 at 11:38 AM

Always easy to pick apart someone else’s proposals especially when you don’t have one to counter with. The GOP continues becoming more irrelevant as the days go by.

Where is the GOP health care plan? Outside of free market and across state lines. I am willing to listen to their concerns when I see a credible plan.

loveofcountry on October 17, 2013 at 5:58 PM

The simplest plan should be to make it just like purchasing auto insurance. Libs kept comparing the mandate to state laws requiring auto insurance, but they didn’t really understand what they were saying. I have no problem with making healthcare insurance just like auto insurance because I don’t have to buy the latter just for existing.

Nutstuyu on October 18, 2013 at 11:41 AM

The law that gives congress subpoena powers. What boat did you just get off of?

Nutstuyu on October 18, 2013 at 11:38 AM

I think you are reading cptacek’s comment wrong – his point is that they DO have the power to subpoena ordinary citizens.

RINO in Name Only on October 18, 2013 at 12:42 PM

The law that gives congress subpoena powers. What boat did you just get off of?
Nutstuyu on October 18, 2013 at 11:38 AM

I think you are reading cptacek’s comment wrong – his her point is that they DO have the power to subpoena ordinary citizens.

RINO in Name Only on October 18, 2013 at 12:42 PM

Yes. Of course Congress has the power to subpeona whoever they want.

They can subpoena them, but presumably, they will be more willing to lie to congress, and even if they’re unwilling to technically commit perjury for their masters, they would still be much more inclined to filibuster and give evasive and deceptive answers, and be willing to embarrass themselves to protect the administration. Outside contractors would have much more incentive to be candid, and not just to the minimum extent required by law.

RINO in Name Only on October 18, 2013 at 11:23 AM

You are right. I should have learned from Lois that lying and perjuring yourself is acceptable in a Congressional hearing. Thanks!

cptacek on October 18, 2013 at 1:42 PM

Could be that they built the site with the income verification tech integrated and then had to tear it out quickly and haphazardly once HHS changed its mind

I figured it was the other way around. They couldn’t get the income verification to work, so HHS decided it wasn’t needed.

taznar on October 18, 2013 at 2:35 PM

I just tried as neutral a search combo as I could think of “Obamacare rollout” — and confined it to the last month. The overwhelming majority of hits were about all the screw-ups; I’m allowing myself to believe that it’s not just us, that the colossal screw-up here actually is being acknowledged by the left-leaning press.

Chuckles3 on October 18, 2013 at 10:07 AM

I didn’t do a search. I did it the way most people usually get their web news; I went to the major news front pages, and looked around for what caught my eye. It wasn’t the Obamacare rollout, except for Fox.

claudius on October 18, 2013 at 3:07 PM

Even a bunch of Neanderthal Marines couldn’t FUBAR this as bad as all these Ivy Grads have done.

Another Drew on October 18, 2013 at 3:20 PM

Has anyone here actually gotten a look, personally, at the premiums for the federal exchange? I’ve tried a few times and have always been shut out at some point in the process. But I haven’t had an enormous amount of time. Apologies if this has been answered earlier.

It is oddly appropriate that the thing that in the end, the direct cause of this piece of sh$t’s collapse may well be people simply looking at it.

RINO in Name Only on October 18, 2013 at 10:42 AM

Nope. My fingers refuse to type it. There is no way I will give them so much as a scrap of info.

katy the mean old lady on October 18, 2013 at 3:36 PM

It was not messed up, they just ran a con to steal the money and now they will use that money to fund the run up to Amnesty.

All this paid thugs out demanding Amnesty , chaining themselves to stuff etal will be collecting their pay checks funded by the money theft that did not go to build these web sites.

Obama lies.

The only fact for sure known about him.

APACHEWHOKNOWS on October 18, 2013 at 4:40 PM

The wed site from what some see is just a voter registration operation to get more Democrats on the rolls for the 2014/2016 elections.

APACHEWHOKNOWS on October 18, 2013 at 4:43 PM

Nope. My fingers refuse to type it. There is no way I will give them so much as a scrap of info.

katy the mean old lady on October 18, 2013 at 3:36 PM

Field Marshal Sebelius: you know, vee haf uzza vays of getting zee informayshun, ja?

slickwillie2001 on October 18, 2013 at 5:21 PM

Software development managed by politicians and lobbyists will always turn into a mess.

dogsoldier on October 18, 2013 at 6:39 PM

Remember, it was only this past summer that HHS suddenly decided to eliminate income verification for subsidies for the first year.

Hmm. I was just asked by the “Marketplace” to send them “proof of [my] income for 2014.” (One could wonder how one can prove income not yet received.)

mkenorthshore on October 18, 2013 at 7:26 PM

Has anyone here actually gotten a look, personally, at the premiums for the federal exchange? I’ve tried a few times and have always been shut out at some point in the process. But I haven’t had an enormous amount of time. Apologies if this has been answered earlier.

It is oddly appropriate that the thing that in the end, the direct cause of this piece of sh$t’s collapse may well be people simply looking at it.

RINO in Name Only on October 18, 2013 at 10:42 AM

I have. The “Silver” plans’ average around $300/month, and the “Gold” looks to be around $400-500. That’s after the tax credit is deducted.

mkenorthshore on October 18, 2013 at 7:30 PM

Nope. My fingers refuse to type it. There is no way I will give them so much as a scrap of info.

katy the mean old lady on October 18, 2013 at 3:36 PM

Oh, I would never give a site like that my personal info. I just used a fake identity, and an email address that I set up years ago for the sole purpose of registering accounts on websites I don’t trust.

RINO in Name Only on October 18, 2013 at 8:00 PM

Nope. My fingers refuse to type it. There is no way I will give them so much as a scrap of info.

katy the mean old lady on October 18, 2013 at 3:36 PM

Oh, I would never give a site like that my personal info. I just used a fake identity, and an email address that I set up years ago for the sole purpose of registering accounts on websites I don’t trust.

RINO in Name Only on October 18, 2013 at 8:00 PM

How about your IP address?

katy the mean old lady on October 18, 2013 at 9:12 PM

How about your IP address?

katy the mean old lady on October 18, 2013 at 9:12 PM

Well, I’m not sure what they’re going to get out of that, other than the fact that someone used their cr@ppy site from my house, and that therefore at least one person living here is likely to have some ability to resist certain exotic methods of torture.

I’m not trying to conceal criminal activity, I’m just not interested in giving them personal medical and financial data (which I would not do even under the fake name – at least not accurately).

RINO in Name Only on October 18, 2013 at 9:38 PM

I just went on the CoveredCA site and searched for a plan to cover a couple aged 60 with no dependent children and moderate use of medical services during the year (5-6 office visits each plus 1-3 continuing Rx each). The site shows annual estimated costs of premium + deductible + co-pays.

I didn’t do an exhaustive review since my wife has an employer plan that (in the past anyway…no telling what we’ll hear in November for 2014 coverage) covers us both.

Bronze – $15,082 to $19,167/yr premium + out of pocket
Silver – $15,992 to $20,069/yr
Gold – $17,117 to $23,216/yr
Platinum – $18,029 to $23,810/yr

Doesn’t that seem reasonable and affordable? (/s) And since our income exceeds the limits for subsidies this would all come out of our pocket if we enrolled.

in_awe on October 18, 2013 at 10:09 PM

Doesn’t that seem reasonable and affordable? (/s) And since our income exceeds the limits for subsidies this would all come out of our pocket if we enrolled.

in_awe on October 18, 2013 at 10:09 PM

Nope. That’s basically just expensive catastrophic coverage…oh, and dipping into your pocketbook to cover the very sick, very poor, and very old, of course.

Said it before, gonna say it again. The liberals stepped in it but good this time. Every day it gets a little deeper for them. Wow. Wow wow wow.

Grace_is_sufficient on October 19, 2013 at 6:32 AM

Anyone else think the times, they are Biblical?

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.–Proverbs 16:18

I remember watching women faint in Obama’s presence and the fawning and drooling over creased pants and the fake Greek columns and thinking: this can’t last. Faux “messiahs” that rise fast burn out fast–does it not seem so?

Anyway–it’s interesting to watch. I’ll say that.

Grace_is_sufficient on October 19, 2013 at 6:37 AM

” … given the Thunderdome-levels of chaos Glitchapalooza will be causing them next year …” – AllaP.

“Bust a deal, face the wheel”, Barry!
If it’s good enough for a real ma, it should be good for the POTUS.
~(Ä)~

Karl Magnus on October 19, 2013 at 12:05 PM

Remember that seniors and minorities, being unable to follow simple instructions about the voting process, according to their protectors, the democrats, will not be able to login to these web-sites, even if they worked. And for the “undocumented”, it would be racist to actually determine their identity, so signing up isn’t an option.

The answer comes readily to this sector: just show up at the emergency room whenever you want and demand treatment.

In fact, I recommend this to everyone. Don’t sign-up, just walk-in.

virgo on October 19, 2013 at 12:25 PM

I don’t have time to do the full rogerb search for all of the super weird comments…
 
libfreeordie on October 18, 2013 at 8:44 AM

 
Again:
 

You clearly devote an *enormous* amount of time …
 
libfreeordie on May 15, 2012 at 4:09 PM

 

It’s always weird seeing someone admit they have no real idea how to use their computer or search engines. Good for you for having that sort of self confidence, though.
 
AOL Obama 2012!!!
 
(Hint: Don’t assume things you have difficulty with are difficult. It could just be a personal issue. Math is a good example for many people. Or understanding the difference between military ranks. Or driving. Or computers, for instance.)..
 
rogerb on May 15, 2012 at 5:56 PM

rogerb on October 19, 2013 at 3:11 PM

Oops. Wrong link. Still a very funny one,
 

Just because you don’t know how to use google or you haven’t worked to improve your own average or below-average memory and recollection skills doesn’t mean others haven’t, or that it’s particularly difficult.

 
but here’s the correct one:
 
http://hotair.com/archives/2012/05/15/obama-in-history/comment-page-3/#comment-5835162

rogerb on October 19, 2013 at 3:12 PM

Kind of like TUG-O-WAR. Sometimes you have to just let go of the rope and watch them all fall on their asses.

johnnyU on October 20, 2013 at 7:02 AM

Comment pages: 1 2 3 4