WaPo: One-third of all Healthcare.gov 834s failed

posted at 8:01 am on December 3, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

The White House touted the success of its “fix” yesterday by focusing on the improved customer experience, which turned out to be not all that much improved after all.  The biggest change was that the site now had a formal waiting line, which foreshadows what will happen when ObamaCare floods a limited number of providers with a lot more demand in a price-controlled economic environment.  The administration got very vague when it came to whether the back-end functions had been fixed, and as the Washington Post reports this morning, that was where the fix was needed most.  A third of all enrollments in October and November got lost, thanks to the system failures on a long-established standard:

The enrollment records for a significant portion of the Americans who have chosen health plans through the online federal insurance marketplace contain errors — generated by the computer system — that mean they might not get the coverage they’re expecting next month.

The errors cumulatively have affected roughly one-third of the people who have signed up for health plans since Oct. 1, according to two government and health-care industry officials. The White House disputed the figure but declined to provide its own.

The mistakes include failure to notify insurers about new customers, duplicate enrollments or cancellation notices for the same person, incorrect information about family members, and mistakes involving federal subsidies. The errors have been accumulating since HealthCare.gov opened two months ago, even as the Obama administration has been working to make it easier for consumers to sign up for coverage, the government and industry officials said.

The 834 issue is crucial to proper enrollment.  What did the White House have to say about it yesterday? Not much:

We don’t know how many inaccurate 834 transmissions went out. Three reporters — one from the Los Angeles Times, one from The Wall Street Journal and I — asked Bataille for information on how many of the 834s sent out so far have had an error. This is a question that I’ve asked on three previous calls, a point made by the Los Angeles Times’s Noam Levey as he asked for his second time.

This is where Monday’s media call started to get more tense than the dozens that have happened in the past, with reporter after reporter asking about the numbers of 834 errors and not getting a response from the administration. As The Wall Street Journal reporter reasoned, if the administration knows that 80 percent of the errors are coming from a certain bug — then simple math should figure out the total number.

Bataille did not provide an answer, beyond the metric of the Social Security bug causing the majority of the errors. “That’s the information I’ve got today,” she told The Wall Street Journal’s Louise Radnofsky, when she was the third reporter to ask about the issue.

If you’ve enrolled through Healthcare.gov, how do you know you’ve actually enrolled? You have to contact the insurer to verify that you have coverage.  This is a vast improvement over the pre-ObamaCare days, of course, when you just bought your insurance directly from the insurance company or a broker who had to transmit data properly in order to stay in business.  Thank goodness that competitive quality has been sucked out of the system, so that incompetents can stay on the job!

Speaking of which, remember all of those worries that the fix wouldn’t impact the atrocious data security of Healthcare.gov? Not to worry – they may have made it worse:

The eight-page report made no mention of the website’s numerous security flaws, which experts say put Americans’ personal information at risk.

“It doesn’t appear that any security fixes were done at all,” David Kennedy, CEO of the online security firm TrustedSec, told the Washington Free Beacon.

Kennedy said fundamental safeguards missing from Healthcare.gov that were identified by his company more than a month ago have yet to be put in place.

“There are a number of security concerns already with the website, and that’s without even actually hacking the site, that’s just a purely passive analysis of [it],” he said. “We found a number of critical exposures that were around sensitive information, the ability to hack into the site, things like that. We reported those issues and none of those appear to have been addressed at all.”

After warning Americans when testifying before Congress on Nov. 19 to stay away from Healthcare.gov, Kennedy now says the situation is even worse.

“They said they implemented over 400 bug fixes,” he said. “When you recode the application to fix these 400 bugs—they were rushing this out of the door to get the site at least so it can work a little bit—you’re introducing more security flaws as you go along with it because you don’t even check that code.”

“I’m a little bit more skeptical now, and I would still definitely advise individuals to not use the website because it’s definitely something that I don’t believe is secure and neither did the four individuals that testified in front of Congress,” Kennedy said. “I think there’s some major security concerns there around privacy and information, and they haven’t even come close to being addressed, and won’t be in the short term.”

But hey, the website has a “dramatically improved” user experience, which means you can now wait in a queue while your private information is exposed to identity thieves in a system that won’t actually enroll some of you for insurance at all. This, apparently, is “private-sector velocity and efficiency,” as seen by the administration that has almost no private-sector experience at all.

It shows.


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