Quotes of the day

Stories of frustration are piling up about Healthcare.gov: People who can’t register. People who pre-registered before opening day, Oct. 1, but can’t log in. People who get five or six screens in, then the site crashes…

“We’ve been trying all week,” says Pearson. “But there have been signs of progress. We can get further into the log-in process each day. But the issue is, you have to create an account before you can access the data and shop. That’s the part that seems not to be functioning and where we get stuck.”

Johnson, the dean at Vanderbilt’s business school, says the Obama administration needed a better communication plan, given all the curiosity and pent-up demand. He suspects a lot of people on the site are just looking for information and trying to understand how much the various plans would cost them.


Bedeviled by technology glitches that frustrated millions of consumers, the Obama administration is taking down its health overhaul website for repairs this weekend.

Enrollment functions of the healthcare.gov site will be unavailable during off-peak hours this weekend, the Health and Human Services Department said Friday. The website will remain open for general information…

By Monday, “there will be significant improvements in the online consumer experience,” HHS said.

The upgrades include extra capacity for more users to get into the system, more technicians working round-the-clock to fix problems, and new pathways to get to the application faster. No details were given.


In some cases, officials conceded that they could not be sure which problems were caused by simply not having the computer capacity to handle the initial demand — a shortfall that should correct itself in time — and which might be signs of design flaws or software bugs.

“It’s like building a bridge from two sides of the river; you just hope it comes out in the middle,” said Kevin Walsh, a senior executive at Xerox, which won a $72 million contract to build Nevada’s state-run exchange. With such complexity, he said, “usually you do a lot more testing than we’ve had time to do.”…

“We haven’t gotten anyone all the way through the process,” said Tim McKinney, president and chief executive of United Way of Tarrant County, in Texas, which has one of the nation’s biggest teams of enrollment counselors. “Yesterday, we were completely frozen out. Today, some of our navigators were able to at least get into the system, but they can’t get very far into it.”…

“I can’t imagine Apple or Ford or McDonald’s rolling out any new product before making perfectly sure they first could provide what they promised,” he said.


Yes, the overwhelming crush of traffic is behind many of the Web site’s failures. But the Web site was clearly far, far from prepared for traffic at anywhere near these levels. That’s a planning flaw: The Obama administration badly underestimated the level of interest. The fact that the traffic is good news for the law doesn’t obviate the fact that the site’s inability to absorb that traffic is bad news for the law.

Part of the problem, according to a number of designers, is that the site is badly coded, which makes the traffic problems more acute. There’s a darkly amusing thread on Reddit where web designers are picking through the site’s code and mocking it mercilessly. “They’re loading 11 CSS files and 62 (wat?) JavaScript files on each page, uncompressed and without expires headers,” writes Spektr44. “They have blocks of HTML inexplicably wrapped in script tags. Wtf?”

Some of the problems on the site don’t require any particular coding experience to identify. While the design is clean and clear, the instructions can be confusing. For instance, when you choose your username, the site says: “The username is case sensitive. Choose a username that is 6-74 characters long and must contain a lowercase or capital letter, a number, or one of these symbols [email protected]/-.”…

[T]he Obama administration did itself — and the millions of people who wanted to explore signing up — a terrible disservice by building a Web site that, four days into launch, is still unusable for most Americans. They knew that the only way to quiet the law’s critics was to implement it effectively. And building a working e-commerce Web site is not an impossible task, even with the added challenges of getting various government data services to talk to each other. Instead, the Obama administration gave critics arguing that the law isn’t ready for primetime more ammunition for their case.


It’s way too early to judge everything about the Obamacare exchanges — Thursday was only the third day of a six-month open enrollment period. Health care experts say the administration has a while to get it right.

But if things don’t smooth out by November, they say, the White House may lose the chance to build confidence in the Obamacare exchanges.

“If it’s not there in a month … there’s going to be a problem,” said Joel Ario of Manatt Health Solutions, the former director of the health exchanges office at the Department of Health and Human Services…

Administration officials insist that people who have gotten through the HealthCare.gov website are getting correct information on the subsidies. But Schuyler says he’s worried, based on the more basic breakdowns that have happened.

“If you can’t do something as easy as establishing an account, it really makes me nervous that it can do the complicated things, like the subsidy determination process,” said Schuyler.


The health law’s online insurance exchanges were supposed to be a one-stop shop where consumers browsing for coverage could enroll in a private health plan or in Medicaid if they qualified.

But that won’t happen with the federal exchange being relied upon by consumers in 36 states, at least not initially. The federal website won’t be able to communicate with state Medicaid agencies until at least Nov. 1 due to technical issues, federal officials said.

This means if people are found to be eligible for Medicaid today (under current eligibility rules) after entering their personal data on the federal web site, they will be directed to their local Medicaid eligibility office where they will have to repeat the process of providing detailed information about their income, residency status and other data…

“It’s a problem, but not an earth-shattering one,” said Matt Salo, executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors. “It’s an extra step or two, and a disappointment … if people were expecting this to really be ‘Travelocity for health care’ on Day One.”


On Thursday, the government’s official Obamacare Facebook page was riddled with people expressing sticker shock over the government’s high cost premiums after struggling for hours to wade through the technical failures vexing Obamacare exchanges all across the country.

“I am so disappointed,” wrote one woman. “These prices are outrageous and there are huge deductibles. No one can afford this!” The comment received 169 “likes.”

Amid scores of comments expressing frustration with technical failures, one woman said she is “just amazed you could even get to the point of seeing pricing” and that she had been trying to access the system for three days to no avail.



The woman who is behind the controls of ObamaCare was unable to convince even one person from Kansas, the state she used to govern, to sign up for it.

Though HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is the former governor of Kansas, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) was informed by an insurance provider in his home state that none of the 365,000 uninsured people living there successfully signed up for insurance on the ObamaCare exchange on the first day.

According to LifeNews, Huelskamp had his own difficulties signing up in the exchanges as well, waiting “on hold” for over 60 hours, and still, as of Thursday, being unable to sign up.