The hits to President Obama’s popularity, prompted by the botched HealthCare.gov rollout, are simply a natural fluctuation every commander-in-chief faces, Obama told interviewer Barbara Walters in an interview aired Friday…
“Obviously my most recent concern has been that my website’s not working,” Obama said. “We’re evaluating why it is exactly that I didn’t know soon enough that it wasn’t going to work the way it needed to. But my priority now has been to just make sure that it works.”
A crucial weekend for the troubled website that is the backbone of President Barack Obama’s healthcare overhaul appears to be off to a shaky start, as the U.S. government took the HealthCare.gov site offline for an unusually long maintenance period into Saturday morning.
Just hours before the Obama administration’s self-imposed deadline to get the insurance shopping website working for the “vast majority” of its users by Saturday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that it was taking down the website for an 11-hour period that would end at 8 a.m. EST on Saturday…
At the very least, the shutdown suggested that nine weeks after the website’s disastrous launch on October 1 prevented most applicants from enrolling in coverage and ignited one of the biggest crises of Obama’s administration, U.S. officials are nervous over whether Americans will see enough progress in the website to be satisfied.
Luke Chung, president of Virginia-based software developer FMS Inc., called the administration’s prediction that HealthCare.gov would work at 80% capacity on or around November 30 an impractical threshold in the software world.
“I don’t know how to build something that’s only 80% complete,” Chung told CNN. “I don’t even understand how that works.”
Despite recent progress at HealthCare.gov, a raft of problems will remain beyond the Obama administration’s Saturday deadline to make the troubled federal insurance website work…
[T]echnical problems still affect HealthCare.gov’s ability to verify users’ identities and transmit accurate enrollment data to insurers, officials say. The data center that supports the site faces continuing challenges, and tools for processing payments to insurers haven’t been built…
Meanwhile, the site has a backlog of users who encountered problems in its first weeks of operation. Some appear to be locked out from the early stages unless they can get their account deleted. Others are stuck at the next big stage, persuading the federal government of their identity and their income so their application for tax credits can be processed…
Even when people successfully enroll, insurers say they sometimes get incorrect data.
Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of West Virginia has been steadily processing new customers ever since the launch of Obamacare this fall. But Highmark President Fred Earley says mistakes in the 834s are making the job harder.
“We’ve had some situations where the records don’t track, or we’ve seen duplicates,” Earley says. “We’ve had situations where we’ll get a record to show that someone cancelled coverage, when we’ve never had a record to show they enrolled in the first place.”
Earley says his firm has been dealing with the problems by calling up state and federal officials and correcting the mistakes. The exact cause of the problems is unclear. The Obama administration has been slowly making fixes and officials say they’re making progress, but Laszewski says the fixes are not fast enough.
“The error rates have been falling,” he says. “HealthCare.gov has been making progress, but we’re not to the point yet where people can trust that high-volume enrollment can occur and we won’t have serious customer service problems.”
[S]pecialists said weeks of additional work lie ahead, including a major reconfiguration of the computer hardware, if the $630 million site, Healthcare.gov, is to accommodate the expected flood of people seeking to buy health insurance. Without the additional changes, experts predict, the website may continue to crash during periods of peak use…
Tests conducted this week for The New York Times by a California-based company that evaluates websites for major commercial clients found that the site remains too complicated for many users, and is still prone to errors and delays.
“There are too many obstacles and unexpected hurdles people have to jump to sign up,” said Jonathan Hicken, research director at User Testing, the Mountain View, Calif., company that conducted the tests.
After about an hour, dozens of plans for which Ms. Munier and her daughter qualify appear on the screen. On average, the plans she’s looking at hover around $400 per month, but with deductibles far higher than her old policy—up to $11,000 more. “That seems astronomical,” she says.
Mr. Myint is prohibited from steering her toward one plan or another, and Ms. Munier, saying it’s all too confusing, wants more time to look over her options. For today, she doesn’t enroll on the exchange.
It’s a familiar experience for Mr. Myint. After starting Oct. 1, when the exchanges went live, his organization was aiming to sign up 5,800 people by the end of March 2014. It has a long way to go.
It was then–after I reached the page with all of the competing plans, having answered all of their nosy personal questions about my race–that I grew truly unhappy. For it was then I learned that our old insurer was not one of those now available. My wife and I had only in the last couple of months found an internist whom we liked and who took Oxford. Now, we had to start everything anew. The site offered plans by companies I had never heard of, such as Oscar, and ones we had already had a bad history with, such as Emblem. These choices were the equivalent of no choice.
I have visited the site several times by now and pushed the sliding bars around and plugged in names of hospitals, trying to determine if one of these plans might be suitable. One of them might indeed be as good, or better, than our old plan. But the design is so confusing that I can’t be sure…
But I doubt it can succeed as it’s currently being presented and sold. My suggestion is that the president have a national teach-in, on television and streaming live, wherein he would stand in front of a projected computer screen and go step-by-step from registration to purchase. Teenagers could show their reluctant or fearful parents what to do. Provided the website didn’t crash, the ACA might finally enroll enough customers to justify its shaky existence.
The true test of the latest work is likely to materialize within days, not hours. The website might hold up this weekend, as many Americans are returning home from their Thanksgiving holiday, but then crash Monday – a traditionally busy day for signup in health programs with December deadlines.
But Saturday is still a politically perilous day for Democrats. By pegging the repair effort to a specific date, the administration is inviting stakeholders to judge for themselves whether the goals have been met, experts say.
“Democrats are going to look at this, and if they think it’s politically convenient to jump ship, the amorphous nature of the deadline will do that,” said Tevi Troy, former deputy HHS secretary to President George W. Bush. “I think it will likely be shown that there are still humongous numbers of problems. I don’t think it’ll be that helpful to them.”
Here’s the scenario the Obama administration wants to avoid at all costs on Saturday: It declares the Obamacare website fixed, a bunch of cable news network anchors try to log on again on live TV, and they get more error messages.
And suddenly, everyone’s showing that clip of George W. Bush standing on the USS Abraham Lincoln in front of the “Mission Accomplished” banner.
But Democrats on Capitol Hill have their own nightmare scenario, too: The White House gives them nothing to brag about, no evidence that the site is actually better — just as some of the most vulnerable Democrats are getting ready to blast the administration if they’re not convinced it’s fixed…
“I don’t think there are any assurances they can take from the administration that will be that helpful,” said one Democratic pollster who’s working on some of the top Senate races. “It needs to get better. It’s all about the results. There’s nothing that messaging or assurances can do at this point.”
More than one administration official over the course of reporting this article said they fully expect that the first time a consumer encounters an error message on the website on Dec. 1, it will be used as a cudgel by the critics. Senate aides, meanwhile, say it’s unclear how long a leash up-for-reelection Democrats would give the president should problems persist. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) may not be able to keep legislation reforming the Affordable Care Act off the floor absent major, tangible improvements…
“The website is getting better but it’s not fixed,” said one Democratic lawmaker. “Don’t even get me started on talking points. They should use the time they spend writing useless talking points fixing the website.”
Yes, the website will improve over time. But the cost of insurance on the website will not. And the cost of insurance for everyone else is also going up. And many of the law’s “winners”—mainly low-income people qualifying for subsidies—already vote Democrat, if they vote at all.
If anything, Americans are only beginning to become aware of the fact that they will pay more for health insurance under Obamacare. “I was all for Obamacare until I found out I was paying for it,” said one Californian when she first saw her bill. The President and his Democratic allies have been assuring Americans that they will see no changes to their health coverage under the law. That isn’t true. And one year from now, we’re likely to see voters make their dissatisfaction known.