New ObamaCare nightmare: Insurers getting bad data from exchanges

posted at 9:21 am on October 18, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

The problems of enrolling in the exchanges have been bad enough, and the obstacles to actually buying an insurance plan well documented.  However, the consumer experience is far from the only problem plaguing the exchanges.  The connection to the insurers passes bad data, forcing insurers to hire more temp workers and leaving in question whether anyone is properly covered at all.

Yes, it’s more than just the “glitches,” as CBS’ Jan Crawford reports this morning:

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.

Emerging errors include duplicate enrollments, spouses reported as children, missing data fields and suspect eligibility determinations, say executives at more than a dozen health plans. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Nebraska said it had to hire temporary workers to contact new customers directly to resolve inaccuracies in submissions. Medical Mutual of Ohio said one customer had successfully signed up for three of its plans.

That’s one customer for one of the major underwriters in Ohio over a seventeen-day period.  That’s hardly a success story, nor is it improving much:

Of 209,000 users who began to register on healthcare.gov on Monday or Tuesday of this week, just over one-quarter finished the process, according to an estimate made by the analytics firm comScore for The Wall Street Journal. In the first week, only 10% did so. The estimates are based on a sampling of Internet users tracked by the company.

Even the improvement has its issues.  The reason that insurers can fix the bad data now is that so few people can successfully navigate the exchanges.  When that side improves, the real disaster may begin:

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.

Not too many of these insurers are speaking publicly — yet –  and the Wall Street Journal explains why:

Health-department officials have pressured insurers to refrain from commenting publicly about the problems, according to executives at four health plans, who asked not to be named. The HHS declined to comment.

That won’t last long, though.  As Erika noted last night, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will be holding hearings on the ObamaCare rollout, and a number of voices in Congress want HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to resign over the incompetent handling of HHS’ biggest project in a generation.  James Taranto says it won’t help (via Instapundit):

Sebelius’s siblings say sis is staying. The secretary’s sister, Ellen Gilligan, notes that a departure would be a problem for Obama: “The White House is smart enough to know that if she steps aside or they ask her to resign, they will never get anybody else confirmed.” That seems overstated–Democrats will have 55 Senate seats as soon as New Jersey’s Cory Booker is sworn in–but a confirmation battle would still subject ObamaCare to political scrutiny, which would be awkward for Democrats and delightful for Republicans.

Gilligan also says: “Plus, I don’t think they [in the White House] hold her responsible.” It seems to us that’s right. We have no use for Sebelius, but it seems to us wrong to make her a scapegoat for ObamaCare’s failure. A better manager might have managed to get a website working, but no one could really make ObamaCare work, for its flaw is in its basic design.

There are people who deserve to lose their jobs for ObamaCare, and some of them have. In 2010 three senators and numerous representatives were ousted by voters after having voted in favor of the legislation. The following year Rep. Nancy Pelosi lost her job as House speaker. Over at the Internal Revenue Service, Lois Lerner recently “retired” after her role in the agency’s politicization came to light.

Unfortunately, thanks in part to her, the man who most deserved to be fired over ObamaCare, Obama himself, instead had his tenure extended by four years. Had the president been ousted, Sebelius would have been as well. But because we are stuck with Obama, we are stuck with ObamaCare. As for who is secretary of HHS, what difference, at this point, does it make?

Well, no one ever got rich betting on accountability in this administration, with Taranto’s allusion to Benghazi being a most adept skewer indeed.  Still, Cabinet officials exist in part to deflect blame from a President when things go badly, and they did indeed go badly here.  Throwing Sebelius under the bus would at least give Obama an opportunity to declare that a new executive at HHS will clear out the incompetents who mismanaged this project, which would give the White House a few months to get things under control.  The attacks from Congress will happen anyway, especially when angry constituents start flooding Senate offices with phone calls about insurance gaps, high costs, and fumbled plan purchases through the federal exchange.  Kicking Sebelius out has its problems, but keeping her in place endorses this disaster.


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Those are not bugs.

BTW, the teaser pic is broken.

Steve Eggleston on October 18, 2013 at 9:24 AM

Unfortunately, thanks in part to her, the man who most deserved to be fired over ObamaCare, Obama himself, instead had his tenure extended by four years. Had the president been ousted, Sebelius would have been as well. But because we are stuck with Obama, we are stuck with ObamaCare.

They won and America lost.

CWchangedhisNicagain on October 18, 2013 at 9:24 AM

BTW, the teaser pic is broken.

Steve Eggleston on October 18, 2013 at 9:24 AM

Appropriate. No?

CWchangedhisNicagain on October 18, 2013 at 9:25 AM

Throwing Sebelius under the bus would at least give Obama an opportunity to declare that a new executive at HHS will clear out the incompetents who mismanaged this project, which would give the White House a few months to get things under control. The attacks from Congress will happen anyway, especially when angry constituents start flooding Senate offices with phone calls about insurance gaps, high costs, and fumbled plan purchases through the federal exchange. Kicking Sebelius out has its problems, but keeping her in place endorses this disaster.

I don’t see it happening. Obama’s massive ego will never allow it. I also question whether he’ll ever allow Obamacare to be delayed in order to fix this problem. Especially after that was such a big part of the GOP’s demands heading into the shutdown. He’d essentially be admitting the Obamacare opponents were right all along.

Doughboy on October 18, 2013 at 9:27 AM

Garbage in, garbage out. The ongoing theme of this administration.

Flange on October 18, 2013 at 9:33 AM

As I said last night, keep Sebelius. IT gives the administration cover and he might even appoint someone with a functioning whip hand.

Republicans need to keep this to no more than a dull roar. When the opposition is busy destroying itself, get out of the way. If we push too hard, we look like we want this abortion to work.

Jeff Weimer on October 18, 2013 at 9:33 AM

Don’t delay. Promote Sebelius. Bring in more Canadian teens to fix the website.

At this rate, it’ll be a memory by Super Bowl.

Chuck Schick on October 18, 2013 at 9:34 AM

Health-department officials have pressured insurers to refrain from commenting publicly about the problems, according to executives at four health plans, who asked not to be named. The HHS declined to comment.

Get used to it, insurers. And in case you don’t know yet, the goal is to get rid of you altogether.

Also: Tea Party was right.

forest on October 18, 2013 at 9:36 AM

Feh… we’ve been getting nothing but ‘bad data’ out this nightmare administration since Day 2.

Imagine the rot and chaos a 1000 days from now…

CPT. Charles on October 18, 2013 at 9:39 AM

Wow, who could have seen this coming?

Chris of Rights on October 18, 2013 at 9:41 AM

I don’t see it happening. Obama’s massive ego will never allow it. I also question whether he’ll ever allow Obamacare to be delayed in order to fix this problem. Especially after that was such a big part of the GOP’s demands heading into the shutdown. He’d essentially be admitting the Obamacare opponents were right all along.

Doughboy on October 18, 2013 at 9:27 AM

True. The man is petulantly incapable of letting the GOP get credit, even partial, for anything.

Jeff Weimer on October 18, 2013 at 9:41 AM

Also: Tea Party was right.

forest on October 18, 2013 at 9:36 AM

and when you look at so many economic issues America actually agrees with the TP….

the media has demonized the TP that people don’t even know what the movement is.

CWchangedhisNicagain on October 18, 2013 at 9:41 AM

She’s not blame for the failure?????
Are you kidding me?

Where does the buck stop?

cmsinaz on October 18, 2013 at 9:46 AM

Seconds ago on Fox News – Some insurers are setting up their own sign-up systems because of all the Bravo Sierra coming out of the exchanges.

Steve Eggleston on October 18, 2013 at 9:49 AM

We should look at the bright side. It is impossible for someone to take advantage of lax verification and defraud the system. They would never have the patience to try.

percysunshine on October 18, 2013 at 9:51 AM

Over at the Internal Revenue Service, Lois Lerner recently “retired” after her role in the agency’s politicization came to light.

I don’t believe that. If she’s not simply working at home then she’s brought back as a contractor for even more filthy lucre. She’s driven by far more than typical career ambition.

slickwillie2001 on October 18, 2013 at 9:54 AM

What can we do though? It’s settled law. You can’t change it once it’s settled, right?

Wait until the middle of next month, when the Dems in congress realize this is hurting them severely. They’ll be in a complete panic, but Obama’ ego will force them to double down on this. Sure, there will be an insurance death spiral, but there will also be a Dem death spiral twirling away alongside it…

PetecminMd on October 18, 2013 at 9:55 AM

Now that the shutdown and debt ceiling issues are over I guess the media can start focusing like a laser on the obamacare rollout debacle. Isn’t this what the anti-defund people have been saying would have happened if it weren’t for Cruz and Lee?

Jackson on October 18, 2013 at 9:56 AM

Seconds ago on Fox News – Some insurers are setting up their own sign-up systems because of all the Bravo Sierra coming out of the exchanges.

Steve Eggleston on October 18, 2013 at 9:49 AM

I understood that if you didn’t need the subsidies or simply would not accept them, that you could go directly to the insurer and sign up for an Obamacare-compliant policy.

Big plus, you are saved the anal-probing from Field Marshal Sebelius.

slickwillie2001 on October 18, 2013 at 9:56 AM

Cruella’s getting tossed the same way Rummy did.

If the mid-terms are a beating for Team Barry.

Otherwise, expect a cool Billion to be dropped into Zerocare by next fall.

budfox on October 18, 2013 at 9:57 AM

Sebelius ain’t going anywhere. She’s there to Cloward-Piven the private insurance industry, and is doing a helluva job!

Harbingeing on October 18, 2013 at 9:57 AM

Well, thank God we have those highly trained “navigators” for which we are paying hundreds of millions of dollars to “non-profit” community organizing groups, so that everybody in Obamaland gets free healthcare.

/sarc

Seriously, how much are they costing us? And how could they possibly help with the process, if this is the process so far?

DublOh7 on October 18, 2013 at 9:58 AM

I understood that if you didn’t need the subsidies or simply would not accept them, that you could go directly to the insurer and sign up for an Obamacare-compliant policy.

Big plus, you are saved the anal-probing from Field Marshal Sebelius.

slickwillie2001 on October 18, 2013 at 9:56 AM

Yeah, but then won’t the sticker shock keep people away?

Doughboy on October 18, 2013 at 9:58 AM

Oh that’s right the gop need to be blamed

cmsinaz on October 18, 2013 at 9:58 AM

We should look at the bright side. It is impossible for someone to take advantage of lax verification and defraud the system. They would never have the patience to try.

percysunshine on October 18, 2013 at 9:51 AM

Absolutely. Another major accomplishment for Obama. The fraudsters don’t have a chance. The hackers and ID thieves will get bad information once they breach security too. Probably already have.

forest on October 18, 2013 at 9:59 AM

Seconds ago on Fox News – Some insurers are setting up their own sign-up systems because of all the Bravo Sierra coming out of the exchanges.

Steve Eggleston on October 18, 2013 at 9:49 AM

That’s fine. I’m sure they’re doing this so they can at least attempt to get people to sign up. But you can’t get subsidies unless you go through healthcare.gov, so you aren’t going to get anyone who had been priced out of the market to sign up this way. And I doubt they’re going to get the healthy people they need by going this route either, so it really does nothing but accelerate the death spiral.

PetecminMd on October 18, 2013 at 9:59 AM

The liberals’ new whipping boys…the Koch brothers…are surely behind all this mess.

Throwing Sebelius under the bus would at least give Obama an opportunity to declare that a new executive at HHS will clear out the incompetents who mismanaged this project, which would give the White House a few months to get things under control.

Judging by my liberal friends/co-workers, most are fine with ousting Sebelius. From what I gather, it seems better to the Left to make Sebelius the scapegoat, thus taking blame away from Obama and others in his administration, and Capitol Hill Dems. So it would seem very plausible that Sebelius will be the sacrificial lamb in this failure of a roll-out.

JetBoy on October 18, 2013 at 9:59 AM

Wow, who could have seen this coming?

Chris of Rights on October 18, 2013 at 9:41 AM

Ray Charles could’ve seen this coming. Even in his current condition.

Doughboy on October 18, 2013 at 10:00 AM

So, let’s recap what we have got so far:

1) The front end of the fed exchange is crap.
2) The middle and back end of the exchanges may be even worse.
3) From the headlines:

Some large advertising and outreach campaigns are also geared to that crucial six-week period around Thanksgiving and Christmas, so if the sites are not functional, all of that might not happen—or else might be wasted.

In other words, by design, the majority of Obamacare signups are targeted for the busiest time of the year for working people. Companies have annual insurance plan signups in October for a reason.
4) Obamacare needs to have these people signed up by Christmas or the inevitable death spire of the insurance companies involved begins.
5) It will take 6 weeks (best case scenario) to six months (appearing to be more realistic by the day) to get reasonable functionality for the federal exchange.
6) This is an estimate for the outfit that has missed half of its deadlines over the last three years.
7) Let’s not forget no employer mandate, no income verification for subsidy qualification, aka the Honor System.
8) The Administration says 1) If you like your plan…, 2) It’s no ones fault (i.e. no accountability) 3) Problems are due to overwhelming popularity. 4) Shiny squirrel!
9) Worst case scenario projected for the Administration at this point is delaying Obamacare for one year to get the exchange programming right. Doing the math, six months from October 2014 is April 1. See point No. 6)

And the President? “What, me worry?”

parke on October 18, 2013 at 10:02 AM

Did it ever occur to them that some of the millions of visitors were just curious about the site? I went there on day one for that very reason. I even tried to create an account to see how much my rates would be (a fake account, of course; no way was I going to give them my real contact information). So, I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of those visitors weren’t really interested in enrolling.

sydneyjane on October 18, 2013 at 10:02 AM

Now that the shutdown and debt ceiling issues are over I guess the media can start focusing like a laser on the obamacare rollout debacle. Isn’t this what the anti-defund people have been saying would have happened if it weren’t for Cruz and Lee?

Jackson on October 18, 2013 at 9:56 AM

That was the biggest load of BS from the start.

Look at all the small stories the Media had to brush aside because of Cruz, and they would have suddenly been more important than Zerocare.

Barry at the UN would have been paramount.

The Al-Libi/Somalia raids would have been covered non-stop.

And that’s without the immigration push.

Team Barry already had the shiny objects lined up for them.

budfox on October 18, 2013 at 10:02 AM

Did it ever occur to them that some of the millions of visitors were just curious about the site?

sydneyjane on October 18, 2013 at 10:02 AM

88% plunge from week one to week two.

How many were repeated media attempts?

They know, but they’re never going to admit it.

budfox on October 18, 2013 at 10:05 AM

For the kind of money they spent, HHS could have just bought BenefitMall and rebranded it with a few stylesheet changes. Whaddya know… BenefitMall is a healthcare exchange that is already complete (has been for years) and ready to go! Idiots.

stvnscott on October 18, 2013 at 10:09 AM

Medical Mutual of Ohio said one customer had successfully signed up for three of its plans.

That’s one customer for one of the major underwriters in Ohio over a seventeen-day period. That’s hardly a success story, nor is it improving much:

One person buying three plans? If that is the only “success” story, then there are zero successes in Ohio, not one.

cptacek on October 18, 2013 at 10:12 AM

Would help if lots and lots of people set up “test accounts” at Healthcare.gov?

JoeHanson on October 18, 2013 at 10:12 AM

Medical Mutual of Ohio said one customer had successfully signed up for three of its plans.

I’m taking that to mean it was a bad sign up. Why would one customer need three plans? It sounds like the customer tried multiple times to get signed up due to crashes, but ended up signed up multiple times. Talk about sticker shock come January.

Alternatively, if this is for real, is Obamacrap that convoluted that one individual/family needs three different plans to get coverage for everyone? That can’t be real.

parke on October 18, 2013 at 10:20 AM

The country should send a great big THANK YOU DEMOCRATS! for the gift that keeps on giving taking. We should never forget what this party has given to the country all by themselves. Better hurry because the left is already trying to re-write history and blame the Republicans. Just like they have on Civil Rights, Jim Crow laws, the KKK, and any other number of the evil efforts they have spawned over the last century or two.

iamsaved on October 18, 2013 at 10:23 AM

Throwing Sebelius under the bus would at least give Obama an opportunity to declare that a new executive at HHS will clear out the incompetents

Trying to think of a reason why I would want Sebelius to be fired………………………

Nope. Can’t think of anything.
As far as I’m concerned, she’s doing a bang-up job for O’care opponents.

lynncgb on October 18, 2013 at 10:31 AM

Fixed or not I believe there will be more uninsured after Jan 1 than there are now.

docflash on October 18, 2013 at 10:36 AM

I don’t normally use internet cliches, but Obamacare is the very definition of “Epic FAIL”.

whatcat on October 18, 2013 at 10:36 AM

I know it’s a random act, but kudos to CBS for running this story, all be it–ON FRIDAY.

hillsoftx on October 18, 2013 at 10:36 AM

Once they upgrade to a 486 with a 14.4 modem everything will be Jake.

Ted Torgerson on October 18, 2013 at 10:56 AM

ObamaCare may be delayed, but the paucity of young enrollees makes it likely that (whenever it actually gets up and going) the Feds will have to get more authoritarian about getting young people to sign up. Fascist impulses ultimately require harsh enforcement, and as surely as the sun rises in the east we will see that here.

MTF on October 18, 2013 at 11:16 AM

CBS is racist.

They are reporting bad news about the god-king Obama and one of his projects.

Where is Eric Holder with the indictments?

patch on October 18, 2013 at 12:26 PM

Sending wrong data? Which means they have absolutely no standard way of sending/receiving data…they probably have custom files being passed back and forth; which means data in the wrong fields on both ends. Knowing now that they’re using 10year old data I wouldn’t be surprised if they were emailing .csv files through yahoo mail.

nextgen_repub on October 18, 2013 at 1:00 PM

Fixed or not I believe there will be more uninsured after Jan 1 than there are now.

docflash on October 18, 2013 at 10:36 AM

You may not know how right you are.

I work for a healthcare company that provides care coordination as an addon to employers with self-funded benefit plans.

We lost a large client just recently that dumped their employees into the exchanges with a stipend amount starting January 1st.

I have no idea what will happen when (not if) the exchanges aren’t functioning before January!

dominigan on October 18, 2013 at 2:28 PM

EXCELLENT article on the technical issues behind the scene, and is a must read for techies! The failed UI are actually preventing bigger issues. Once the UI drain is unclogged, the real nightmare begins…

Assessing the Exchanges

dominigan on October 18, 2013 at 2:33 PM

New Coke had a better rollout,
and nobody was standing there with the IRS-gun in their hand either.

Another Drew on October 18, 2013 at 2:57 PM

That’s why it’s called, Obamascare.

Libertylea on October 19, 2013 at 1:34 PM