Pro Publica: Why, this new and improved ObamaCare website seems barely improved at all

posted at 4:01 pm on December 2, 2013 by Allahpundit

Just one user’s experience, but he’s a noteworthy user: It’s Charles Ornstein, Pulitzer winner and author of that much-linked piece a few weeks ago about a couple in San Francisco who found their new O-Care coverage worse than their old plan in nearly every way. Greg Sargent claimed this morning that the big Healthcare.gov “fix” this weekend had bought O some extra time with Democrats on the Hill, but we’ll see. No doubt Ornstein’s piece is making the rounds in the Capitol as I write this, with plenty of sideways glances exchanged.

Tick tock.

After a glowing news conference yesterday citing “night and day” progress on HealthCare.gov, I decided to log in this morning and take the Web site for a test drive, as I’m sure many others are doing. Early reports had been promising. What I found was hardly encouraging — long delays loading pages, an endless circle of tasks (some already completed) and ultimately an error message.

The load-time issues (sometimes more than a minute) reminded me of the problems users encountered in the very first days of the Web site, which handles health insurance enrollment for residents of 36 states. It also appears to contradict what Health and Human Services officials said had been fixed…

Additionally, once I had completed and submitted my application and verified my identity, the site told me that I was missing information and had to review it again. Nothing was missing. Ultimately, I got an error message telling me to come back later.

Follow the link for screenshots and a transcript of his exchange with a technician, who could only urge him to try logging out, waiting half an hour, and then logging back in. Ornstein wasn’t the only reporter with bad luck today either:

The caveat here, as lefties will rush to note, is that traffic was bound to be unusually heavy on the first business day after the November 30th deadline. Thousands of curiosity-seekers like Ornstein are surfing over to the site to see how it performs; eventually they’ll get bored, the traffic load will lighten, and it’ll function better. HHS freely admits that it’s designed to handle only 50,000 users at a time now, right? Well, we’re probably at that mark today. Question, though: What happens as we inch closer to the December 23rd deadline and people who are desperate for coverage start clicking over to sign up? Traffic is bound to be heavy the week before D-Day, and maybe even before that. How many people will be locked out?

In hindsight, O and Sebelius might have been better off not announcing November 30 as the critical date for repairs in the first place. They could have said they were improving the site via an ongoing process and that things would be better every day. That would have averted the problem of curiosity-seekers, but then that goes back to my point in the last post about Obama needing to balance technological triage against political triage. He had to announce a deadline for repairs, not because it was technologically necessary but because Democrats demanded some assurance. He chose politics over sound policy in this case — just as he did in choosing to let insurers un-cancel plans — and now he’s paying for it today and for who knows how long with bad PR about a site that still doesn’t work.

Even if Democrats aren’t ready to abandon ship yet, at least one state exchange is:

Federal officials said they had largely succeeded in repairing parts of the site that had most snarled users in the two months since its troubled launch, but acknowledged they only had begun to make headway on the biggest underlying problems: the system’s ability to verify users’ identities and accurately transmit enrollment data to insurers.

One of the leading states operating its own exchange is considering ways to decouple itself from the federal infrastructure it relies on to confirm residents’ eligibility for federal tax credits. That technology has been affected by planned and unplanned outages.

James Wadleigh, chief information officer of Connecticut’s exchange, said he was looking at having a new vendor support identity verification in addition to the federal vendor. He also said he wanted to be able to tap state databases, such as the labor department’s, to validate incomes and was seeking a way to prove people were legal residents without depending on U.S. data.

Fearless prediction: Within the next week, the White House and HHS will start urgently encouraging people who clearly make too much to qualify for subsidies to avoid the site entirely and enroll directly with individual insurers. That’ll be embarrassing, but it’s the easiest fix available to them. They could publish the income cut-off numbers on the front page of the site with a disclaimer urging people who are above those cut-offs to use eHealthInsurance.com to research insurance plans offered in their home state and to sign up with their preferred company once they’ve settled on one. That would end up creating a two-track system for enrollment, one for the poor who are stuck with Healthcare.gov in order to qualify for subsidies and one for people who are better off, but the diverted traffic might lighten the load on the website enough to make it viable for the next few weeks.

Ezra Klein’s Wonkblog is showcasing a few success stories, naturally, but read deep into the article and you’ll see that even those come with asterisks. One guy was able to enroll easy peasy in under an hour — and then discovered there was a $3,000 discrepancy on cost-sharing between what the website told him and what his insurer told him. Gulp.

Update: Oof.

The “834 error rate” refers to the application info transmitted on the back end of Healthcare.gov to insurers. Kliff wants to know how frequently that info is garbled or incomplete. No answer.


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

Surprise surprise…

sandee on December 2, 2013 at 4:04 PM

Heh, even Linda Blair envies the White House spin…

hillsoftx on December 2, 2013 at 4:04 PM

man would I ever love to laugh about this but the people that really do have health issues must be getting very nervous

DanMan on December 2, 2013 at 4:07 PM

Garbage in (the ACA) – Garbage out.

GarandFan on December 2, 2013 at 4:12 PM

Only the beginning.
I’m stocking up on caramel popcorn for this festive occasion.

AllahsNippleHair on December 2, 2013 at 4:13 PM

Greg, so the new and improved, super-double revamped web site isn’t working day one after they promised it would work after sixty one days of failure?

Verbosity Dec 2, 2013 at 12:01 AM

mankai on December 2, 2013 at 4:14 PM

Edited for accuracy:

(Obama) chose politics over sound policy in this case — just as he did in choosing to let insurers un-cancel plans — and now he’s paying for it today and for who knows how long with bad PR about a site that still doesn’t work. making every single decision throughout his entire career in elective office and public life.

Much better.

Sacramento on December 2, 2013 at 4:15 PM

Aye carumba

cmsinaz on December 2, 2013 at 4:20 PM

Why does this website remind me of the good old days in the 90s when all you had was Compuserve and AOL? I’m waiting to hear Michelle O’s screechy voice say, “You’ve Got Insurance” before the whole system crashes.

OrbeaRider66 on December 2, 2013 at 4:21 PM

If they’ve lost Sarah Kliff, they’ve lost everyone.

MTF on December 2, 2013 at 4:21 PM

On a related note, todays’ Journolist Talking Points memo lede is “Surge in ObamaCare Enrollments/Signups in November” based on the 100,000 signups/enrollments in November as compared to Octobers’ measly effort. Rueters and ABC seem to try and equate the signups and enrollment without clarifying the differences.

For kicks, how many other news articles mention the S word today?

Online Obamacare Enrollment Surges in November, but Still Lagging
http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/12/online-obamacare-enrollment-for-november-surges-but-still-lagging/

Online Obamacare Enrollment for November Surges but Still Lagging
http://www.kmbz.com/Online-Obamacare-Enrollment-for-November-Surges-bu/17879463

November ‘Surge’ in Obamacare Enrollment
November ‘Surge’ in Obamacare Enrollment

There’s a ‘November surge’ in Obamacare enrollments
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/11/22/theres-a-november-surge-in-obamacare-enrollments/

LA TIMES CLAIMS OBAMACARE ENROLLMENTS ‘SURGING’; REAL NUMBERS ABYSMAL

(Yay Breibart! The truth will Set You Free)
http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Journalism/2013/11/19/LA-Times-Claims-Obamacare-Enrollments-Surging-Real-Numbers-Abysmal

Wanna see more? Just Google “Surge in Obamacare enrollment”

parke on December 2, 2013 at 4:23 PM

Fearless prediction: Within the next week, the White House and HHS will start urgently encouraging people who clearly make too much to qualify for subsidies to avoid the site entirely and enroll directly with individual insurers.

They should also encourage those eligible for medicaid under the new rules to avoid the site and enroll directly at the local welfare office.

agmartin on December 2, 2013 at 4:24 PM

If they’ve lost Sarah Kliff, they’ve lost everyone.

MTF on December 2, 2013 at 4:21 PM

Would that be Sarah “I don’t cover local crime” Kliff?

Doughboy on December 2, 2013 at 4:25 PM

Time to take a drive past the grave of Claude Rains again…

Del Dolemonte on December 2, 2013 at 4:27 PM

“He chose politics over sound policy in this case”

that’s unpossible!

NoVAHockey on December 2, 2013 at 4:28 PM

The fun hasn’t even started yet. The longer it takes for people to get on the website, the closer to the next election they’ll be when the reality of sticker shock hits them. People have yet to realize that the premiums, deductibles and out of pocket expenses are astronomical. With every “fix” of the website more people become aware that they can’t afford it. By next November there will be fewer people paying into ObamaFAIL than could possibly sustain it. This is every bit the train wreck that we knew it would be. ObamaFAIL is like a bullet train that’s about to jump the tracks and run off a cliff at 200 mph and all you can do is watch. When it finally hits bottom…?

HotAirian on December 2, 2013 at 4:33 PM

Here is the very uncomfortable truth for me…A Very, very long story I will not bore you with regarding my pre existing condition. My policy was canceled. I knew it would be because I paid attention to the detail when this mess was passed. How unfortunate it is that they are now playing stupid.

In order for me to remain with my current insurance co. (Aetna) My premium would go up for myself 925.00 per month..hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhaha…anyway, without the sorted story, I have been pushed on the exchanges….which, I also knew would happen so, I was prepared. I called Blue Cross directly in early November and I still have no confirmation…..

The issue is that most individuals truly are unaware that BC&BS along with other participating insurance companies are in fact the middle man. They are filling out the application for you, online or over the telephone,then they must input the information into the government system at which time I will then be contacted. I have been more than a little upset that I know more about the law then the person attempting to assist me…It has been brutal. My points are many, but in this circumstance, my point is that I have done what is required of me…the government is a mess, and there is no guarantee I will have insurance come January 1st….

shar61 on December 2, 2013 at 4:35 PM

More-FAIL

TX-96 on December 2, 2013 at 4:36 PM

Healthcare.gov: “We send you to wait here, so that we can make sure there’s room for you to have a good experience on this site.”

Wasn’t it the government’s job for the last 3-1/2 years to “make room” for everyone to sign up?

Has anyone ever encountered a message on a private-business website telling customers “we send you to wait here”? Like an angry parent telling his/her kids “Go to your room and wait until we’re ready to listen!”

Steve Z on December 2, 2013 at 4:36 PM

That would end up creating a two-track system for enrollment, one for the poor who are stuck with Healthcare.gov in order to qualify for subsidies and one for people who are better off, but the diverted traffic might lighten the load on the website enough to make it viable for the next few weeks.

What happens if someone goes directly to an insurer and gets a quote and starts paying, and then later finds out they were eligible for a subsidy?

Incidentally, I doubt the lighter traffic is going to help, anyway. These problems are way bigger than just heavy server loads.

Missy on December 2, 2013 at 4:37 PM

Incidentally, I doubt the lighter traffic is going to help, anyway. These problems are way bigger than just heavy server loads.

Missy on December 2, 2013 at 4:37 PM

Like, oh I don’t know, 40% of the backend code not existing yet?

Chuck Schick on December 2, 2013 at 4:44 PM

Thankfully, BCBS is reinstating my policy for next year. I plan on moving later next year anyway, so that’s good enough for me. Of course, I won’t be paying 3 times what I am now so that somebody else can get a free ride but I would have gone uninsured before taking that deal anyway.

Exit question: Will BCBS be in business after having to accept customers with preexisting conditions and all the rest that the law demands of them? Will they survive without a huge bailout in the form of the “risk corridor” that Rubio is seeking to block?

MJBrutus on December 2, 2013 at 4:45 PM

Incidentally, I doubt the lighter traffic is going to help, anyway. These problems are way bigger than just heavy server loads.

Missy on December 2, 2013 at 4:37 PM

Traffic isn’t the problem. It sounds as if they have interface problems with the systems involved.

Which BTW was utterly predictable and when you only get 700M to spend on the project, what do you expect. I bet the crony of Mooch looted at least half of that.

Happy Nomad on December 2, 2013 at 4:47 PM

In the Old West – people would construct fancy facades for their saloons, while still serving rotgut…

Making the first step “easier”, while neglecting the back end is far worse than both being FUBAR.

It’s like getting a table to the best restaurant, while never getting your food served.

This admin is a clusterfark of epic proportions. Anyone with an iota of tech knowledge knows it cannot and will not be “fixed” in 4-6 weeks. Though I do love Seballeus and her ilk desperately scouring the countryside for 1 single success story.

Odie1941 on December 2, 2013 at 4:48 PM

shar61 on December 2, 2013 at 4:35 PM

shar61, it is very important for you to understand that no one begrudges you for doing what you have to do to take care of yourself. You haven’t done what is “required” of you, though. You’ve done what you were coerced.

HomeoftheBrave on December 2, 2013 at 4:50 PM

Which BTW was utterly predictable and when you only get 700M to spend on the project, what do you expect. I bet the crony of Mooch looted at least half of that.

Happy Nomad on December 2, 2013 at 4:47 PM

Yep. When do we find out where the money went, and when?

Missy on December 2, 2013 at 4:50 PM

No one in charge, no vision, no accountability for screwups … not to mention a completely unworkable premise, of ObamaCare itself … what did anyone think would happen.

/Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in awhile, but mostly if they don’t die of starvation or thirst they get run over by cars or killed by dogs.

Paul-Cincy on December 2, 2013 at 4:51 PM

Yep. When do we find out where the money went, and when?

Missy on December 2, 2013 at 4:50 PM

Where did the trillions in stimulus go?

Per Robert Palmer — “Obama’s so fine, there’s no tellin’ where the money went”.

Paul-Cincy on December 2, 2013 at 4:52 PM

When do we find out where the money went, and when?

Sorry for confusing wording – meant it would be great to see a timeline of the payments going out as well as an itemization of how they were (supposedly) spent.

Missy on December 2, 2013 at 4:52 PM

Paul-Cincy on December 2, 2013 at 4:52 PM

I know. We’ll never really find out. But we’re having hearings so someone could at least ask.

Missy on December 2, 2013 at 4:53 PM

Paul-Cincy on December 2, 2013 at 4:52 PM

That was Sheriff Joe’s department. I’m sure he’ll provide a complete accounting on request. /s

MJBrutus on December 2, 2013 at 4:54 PM

Fast initial response, and a better array of information available at healthcare.gov, is nice. In particular, the ability to window-shop without creating an account was a nice addition.

However, funny thing – and take it for what it’s worth:

The prices they showed over the weekend were flatly wrong, to the point of being ridiculously low compared to reality. I’m in the individual market for insurance, not eligible for any subsidy, and have only morbid curiosity related to the HC website, not any actual need to use it. But I already know the prices for the plans they displayed over the weekend, and they were all low, by hundreds of dollars per month.

Patton on December 2, 2013 at 5:32 PM

The prices they showed over the weekend were flatly wrong, to the point of being ridiculously low compared to reality. I’m in the individual market for insurance, not eligible for any subsidy, and have only morbid curiosity related to the HC website, not any actual need to use it. But I already know the prices for the plans they displayed over the weekend, and they were all low, by hundreds of dollars per month.

Patton on December 2, 2013 at 5:32 PM

Likely that they are still suing the 25 or 49 years of age prices and not actual prices for your actual age. If you haven’t selected a carrier, I’m not sure how they can give you a price. If they give you a rate sheet showing bronze, silver and gold for you age, that would be the rates.

oldroy on December 2, 2013 at 5:44 PM

Rampaging nozzles on parade!

Mason on December 2, 2013 at 6:04 PM

Sebelius and Obama are taking turns playing the Black Knight!!

landlines on December 2, 2013 at 6:30 PM

“Magic 8-Ball Healthcare says ‘Ask Again Later’”.

orangemtl on December 2, 2013 at 6:31 PM

Fearless prediction: Within the next week, the White House and HHS will start urgently encouraging people who clearly make too much to qualify for subsidies to avoid the site entirely and enroll directly with individual insurers. That’ll be embarrassing, but it’s the easiest fix available to them. They could publish the income cut-off numbers on the front page of the site with a disclaimer urging people who are above those cut-offs to use eHealthInsurance.com to research insurance plans offered in their home state and to sign up with their preferred company once they’ve settled on one. That would end up creating a two-track system for enrollment, one for the poor who are stuck with Healthcare.gov in order to qualify for subsidies and one for people who are better off, but the diverted traffic might lighten the load on the website enough to make it viable for the next few weeks.

Already being done as I type this AP

At about the upper middle right of the HC.gov page is this lovely gem

“Don’t qualify for lower costs based on your income?

Find other ways to apply for coverage”

which leads to:
https://www.healthcare.gov/whats-the-difference/

What if my income is too high to get lower costs on monthly premiums?

If you’re not eligible for lower costs, you can buy health coverage through an insurance company, an agent or broker, an online insurance seller, or the Marketplace.

Find information about these different ways to apply below. (Getting lower costs based on your income is sometimes referred to as getting “subsidies” or “tax credits.”)
First: Find out if you’re eligible for lower costs

You could be eligible for lower costs on health coverage based on your income and household size. However, you generally won’t qualify if your estimated 2014 income is above:

$45,960 for an individual
$94,200 for a family of 4

(These are 2013 figures, and likely will be slightly higher in 2014.)

It then continues on, etc etc.

SgtSVJones on December 2, 2013 at 6:55 PM

Wow, I finally was able to get on healthcare.gov and shop for a plan since mine has been cancelled. Not only were NONE of my doctors on the provider list,but out of 64 family doctors, I could only pronounce the name of 5 of them. ObamaCare is not only about redistribution of income. It is also a case study in affirmative action. sheesh.

SandyToes on December 2, 2013 at 7:59 PM

shar61 on December 2, 2013 at 4:35 PM

shar61, it is very important for you to understand that no one begrudges you for doing what you have to do to take care of yourself. You haven’t done what is “required” of you, though. You’ve done what you were coerced.

HomeoftheBrave on December 2, 2013 at 4:50 PM

Agreed. We are being forced into Obamacare at the point of a gun. Signing up doesn’t mean you approve of the ugly Obamacare, any more than doing your taxes in April means you approve of the fascist IRS.

slickwillie2001 on December 2, 2013 at 8:00 PM

That would end up creating a two-track system for enrollment, one for the poor who are stuck with Healthcare.gov in order to qualify for subsidies and one for people who are better off, but the diverted traffic might lighten the load on the website enough to make it viable for the next few weeks.

We will have a two-track system, but it will extend far deeper than just signup. We will have a two-track system with multiple networks for a single health insurance provider.

If you sign up for a non-subsidized (for example) BCBS package directly with BCBS, you will have a much more extensive network of hospitals and doctors than if you go through Healthcare.gov and get a subsidized package EVEN IF IT IS ALSO WITH BCBS.

slickwillie2001 on December 2, 2013 at 8:06 PM

shar61 on December 2, 2013 at 4:35 PM

Still here shar61?

I could not find a link to the story, but I heard on radio this morning: Some attorney is suing an Ins Co for canceling a policy while the policy holder was under treatment. It seems this law is still on the books and is in conflict with certain cases of the mass cancellations.

I’m not sure if this is your situation (under treatment), but you may want to research. That story will probably surface on the web later today.

Tsar of Earth on December 3, 2013 at 8:27 AM