Great news: HHS to overhaul Healthcare.gov … again

posted at 2:41 pm on June 6, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

When the Affordable Care Act passed in March 2010, HHS had three and a half years and $400 million to produce a web portal for individual-market consumers that would … pretty much do what the existing portal did for the Medicare Advantage program that ObamaCare raided to pay for its own operation. HHS rolled it out on time last October, whereupon it crashed repeatedly and had to be overhauled. A few months later, the Obama administration bragged about the system when it hit eight million signups, even though the back end couldn’t actually determine how many actually paid for their insurance. Last week, we found out that the part of the system that actually manages the government-run coverage may have screwed up two million or more of those signups.

The next open enrollment date is in mid-November, so now HHS will overhaul Healthcare.gov again with five months to get it functioning properly. What could go wrong? Er …

The Obama administration is revamping HealthCare.gov and scrapping significant parts of the federal health-insurance marketplace in an effort to avoid the problems that plagued the site’s launch last fall, according to presentations to health insurers and interviews with government officials and contractors.

But the makeover—and the tight timeline to accomplish it—are raising concerns that consumers could face another rocky rollout this fall when they return to the site to choose health plans. Some key back-end functions, including a system to automate payments to insurers, are running behind schedule, according to a presentation federal officials made to health insurers.

Adding to the pressure, HealthCare.gov is still in the midst of transitioning to new government contractors to manage basic functions.

Among the changes in the new version of HealthCare.gov: a revamp of the site’s consumer-facing portion including the application for coverage most people will use, as well as the comparison tool that lets them shop for plans, according to slides from a May 20 meeting for insurers held by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees HealthCare.gov.

Of course, HHS has a new boss in Sylvia Burwell, who sailed to confirmation this week on a 78-17 Senate vote. The former OMB official has no particular expertise in web-portal project management, but then again, neither did her predecessor … and look how well that went.

Presumably Burwell will keep a closer eye on progress than did Kathleen Sebelius, but this looks like a recipe for disaster even if Bill Gates was HHS Secretary and the late Steve Jobs the director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). HHS now plans to overhaul the front end again while the back-end systems are still in the late stages of development, including the connections to insurers. Just how will those integrations take place while rewriting software based on the existing and buggy platform that still can’t successfully verify enrollment even in the government’s own programs?

“We’re all going to be nervous until November 15,” one insurer told the WSJ. No kidding. This time HHS plans to test some of the changes before the rollout date, but not all of them:

They said they expected to begin testing some of the changes over the summer, but that other tests would likely take place closer to the start of the new enrollment season. Julie Bataille, a spokeswoman, also said the agency knew the identity-management component was a particular source of problems.

While meditating on this, note this development in healthcare costs that flew under the Bergdahl-for-5-Talibani swap story earlier this week. Hospitals began charging more across the board for their services in 2012, and the New York Times is mystified by the reason (via Instapundit):

Charges for some of the most common inpatient procedures surged at hospitals across the country in 2012 from a year earlier, some at more than four times the national rate of inflation, according to data released by Medicare officials on Monday.

While it has long been known that hospitals bill Medicare widely varying amounts — sometimes many multiples of what Medicare typically reimburses — for the same procedure, an analysis of the data by The New York Times shows how much the price of some procedures rose in just one year’s time. …

Charges for chest pain, for instance, rose 10 percent to an average of $18,505 in 2012, from $16,815 in 2011. Average hospital charges for digestive disorders climbed 8.5 percent to nearly $22,000, from $20,278 in 2011.

In 2012, hospitals charged more for every one of 98 common ailments that could be compared to the previous year. For all but seven, the increase in charges exceeded the nation’s 2 percent inflation rate for that year, according to The Times’s analysis.

Perhaps we should put Nancy Drew in charge of this mystery. She could start with all of the taxes imposed by ObamaCare on medical devices and drug manufacturers, add in all of the administrative costs created to service the law’s mandates, and then round up the usual “you can keep your plan” subjects for the Big Reveal on the next-to-last page.

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Frenetic Boogaloo: ObamaCare 2

BobMbx on June 6, 2014 at 2:43 PM

It’s by design.

Bigbullets on June 6, 2014 at 2:45 PM

Don’t get sick…

PatriotRider on June 6, 2014 at 2:47 PM

Meh, At this point, what difference does it make?
If it does not work out, OgreatOne will just wave his hand and all will be right!

libbyscooter on June 6, 2014 at 2:51 PM

It’s by design.

Bigbullets on June 6, 2014 at 2:45 PM

Yep. They’re all features, not bugs.

majorzot on June 6, 2014 at 2:51 PM

“If you like your shi@@y healthcare.gov, you cannot keep your shi@@y healthcare.gov, because we’re going to ‘improve’ it.
(That is, spend more to make it more convoluted, and with fewer options for consumers)

orangemtl on June 6, 2014 at 2:52 PM

Why build one for $600 million…

When you can build two for twice the cost…..

Electrongod on June 6, 2014 at 2:52 PM

All together now!

And a-1, and a-2

Newtie and the Beauty on June 6, 2014 at 2:56 PM

at least healthcare.gov does not have autoplay videos and gratiutous advertising.

ThisIsYourBrainOnKoch on June 6, 2014 at 2:57 PM

2 million of those who signed up are illegals.

Schadenfreude on June 6, 2014 at 2:57 PM

Nancy drew …heh

cmsinaz on June 6, 2014 at 2:58 PM

Let’s hear it for the other Marx!

Take it away, Groucho

Newtie and the Beauty on June 6, 2014 at 3:00 PM

Bob +1 on first post
:)

cmsinaz on June 6, 2014 at 3:00 PM

I foresee nothing but problems for this whole boondoggling debacle

Newtie and the Beauty on June 6, 2014 at 3:03 PM

at least healthcare.gov does not have autoplay videos and gratiutous advertising.

ThisIsYourBrainOnKoch on June 6, 2014 at 2:57 PM

I know that this is the best thing you can say about healthscare.guv, but what would you expect from a website that cannot even properly present their own content, much less any “autoplay videos and gratuitous advertising”?

NOMOBO on June 6, 2014 at 3:06 PM

A crap sandwich is still a crap sandwich no matter how much money they throw at it.
Weffing difference does it make anyway…

Scrumpy on June 6, 2014 at 3:06 PM

A crap sandwich is still a crap sandwich no matter how much money they throw at it.
Weffing difference does it make anyway…
Scrumpy on June 6, 2014 at 3:06 PM

And no matter how much bread one uses to make this $andwich, the bad ta$te it will leave in the American wallet, con$ciou$ne$$ and hi$tory will never never ever ever go away.

Long live $ociali$m…NOT!

Newtie and the Beauty on June 6, 2014 at 3:09 PM

at least healthcare.gov does not have autoplay videos and gratiutous advertising.

ThisIsYourBrainOnKoch on June 6, 2014 at 2:57 PM

I never visited the site..

So I will take your word for it..

Electrongod on June 6, 2014 at 3:10 PM

Newtie and the Beauty on June 6, 2014 at 3:09 PM

As much as I so dispise the lefts ideology, the LIVs are getting exactly what they want.

I hope they choke on their crap sandwich.

Socialism Be Damned

Scrumpy on June 6, 2014 at 3:13 PM

Of course, HHS has a new boss in Sylvia Burwell, who sailed to confirmation this week on a 78-17 Senate vote. The former OMB official has no particular expertise in web-portal project management, but then again, neither did her predecessor … and look how well that went.

…so glad she just strongly sailed through…aren’t you?

KOOLAID2 on June 6, 2014 at 3:14 PM

It pains me so to even mention that S word on this day of all days.

Scrumpy on June 6, 2014 at 3:15 PM

I hope they choke on their crap sandwich.
Socialism Be Damned
Scrumpy on June 6, 2014 at 3:13 PM

I wish they wouldn’t take the rest of us down with them!

It pains me so to even mention that S word on this day of all days.
Scrumpy on June 6, 2014 at 3:15 PM

I keep remembering, Scrumpy–we beat socialists once, we can do it again…

Newtie and the Beauty on June 6, 2014 at 3:18 PM

Yes, set the timeline first, then figure out what you want to do.

That’s how good software is made.

formwiz on June 6, 2014 at 3:28 PM

at least healthcare.gov does not have autoplay videos and gratiutous advertising

…well sure it doesn’t nit-wit psychopathic socialist……..^ That! ^ might offset the costs of the hundreds of millions of dollars coming out of the taxpayers pockets …getting nothing for the expense and diving into an ever deep monetary hole…that must be your idea of a ‘profit’! ……….so nice that you always post…out of Your Hole!

KOOLAID2 on June 6, 2014 at 3:34 PM

This is one of the very few times I’m glad to live in WA State – the state run website has been excellent.

Tard on June 6, 2014 at 3:35 PM

Oh, goody. Yet another opportunity for these greedy bolsheviks to r@pe the tax payers in order to fund their money launder scam to enrich their uber liberal political allies.

Have I told you lately how much I despise… Yes. I have.

locomotivebreath1901 on June 6, 2014 at 3:41 PM

at least healthcare.gov does not have autoplay videos and gratiutous advertising.

ThisIsYourBrainOnKoch on June 6, 2014 at 2:57 PM

Probably because if was so fubar that they couldn’t them to work.

wifarmboy on June 6, 2014 at 3:59 PM

Perhaps we should put Nancy Drew in charge of this mystery. She could start with all of the taxes imposed by ObamaCare on medical devices and drug manufacturers, add in all of the administrative costs created to service the law’s mandates, and then round up the usual “you can keep your plan” subjects for the Big Reveal on the next-to-last page.

It’s worth noting that hospital “charges” don’t have much of a relationship to how much patients and insurers actually pay. It’d be nice to know if actual payments increased too. Maybe Ed will put Nancy Drew on that case too, rather than actually doing any substantive analysis himself.

themuppet on June 6, 2014 at 4:07 PM

The Good News is we’ll burn through that “new and improved” $5,000 deductible faster. /sarc

RADIOONE on June 6, 2014 at 4:31 PM

It’s worth noting that hospital “charges” don’t have much of a relationship to how much patients and insurers actually pay. It’d be nice to know if actual payments increased too.

themuppet on June 6, 2014 at 4:07 PM

Unfortunately while the insurers have a lot of negotiating power, patients don’t. It is very likely that many patients will have higher out of pocket costs, just due to the increased charges, separate from the higher insurance premiums of Obamacare.

talkingpoints on June 6, 2014 at 6:04 PM

QA alone for an overall of a system this large should take 3 to 6 months. It probably won’t get done at all like before. This will be another disaster.

JoshuaH on June 6, 2014 at 6:47 PM

Given the track record of incompetence so far displayed by this administration………..don’t hold your breath.

GarandFan on June 6, 2014 at 9:10 PM

I keep remembering, Scrumpy–we beat socialists once, we can do it again…

Newtie and the Beauty on June 6, 2014 at 3:18 PM

The problem is that we need a leader who WANTS to.

NavyMustang on June 7, 2014 at 3:04 AM

Let’s see. The elections are November 4th. HHS will find it “impossible” to release 2015 insurance rate and other (bad) news before the election….because system overhaul.

Nor will we be given any updates like how many people are still paying premiums come October. How much are we paying out in subsidies? Was there an insurer bailout?

To all those questions, the answer will be that part of the system isn’t finished yet.

They’ve become tiresomely predictable.

jeanneb on June 7, 2014 at 9:45 AM

If you are an athlete and want to get better, you work on the WEAK parts of your game. If you are successful doing that, the weak parts become less a weakness and sometimes the weakness becomes a strength.
If you are current administration and you have a crappy website for your signature legislation, you repeatedly ignore the parts that don’t work and putz around with the rest. While doing that, you also keep changing the dates for portions of law. It must be lawful, since the One has spoken.

geezerintraining on June 8, 2014 at 10:59 AM