“Glitches” and “snags”? We talked about the soft language on reporting the ObamaCare debacle on my show yesterday with IBD’s Andrew Malcolm. Normally, words like “glitches” and “snags” refer to minor impediments in systems that still allow people to complete their intended transactions. What happened yesterday in the federal exchanges were crashes.
By next week, maybe the New York Times will call them cute little glitchies. For now, we get this headline, although the reporting is a bit better:
Opening Rush to Insurance Markets Runs Into Snags
Millions of Americans visited new online health insurance exchanges as enrollment opened on Tuesday, suggesting a broad national appetite for the affordable coverage that President Obama has promised with his health care law. But many people quickly encountered technological problems that prevented them from getting rates, comparing health plans or signing up.
Federal and state officials said that while they knew there was pent-up demand for health coverage, the number of visits to their exchanges was greater than anticipated. Federal officials said more than 2.8 million people had visited HealthCare.gov, the federally run exchange that serves residents of more than 30 states, though the figure would include those who received error messages. State-run exchanges also reported higher-than-expected use, including several million visits to New York’s Web site.
The demand “exceeds anything that we had expected,” President Obama said at the White House on Tuesday afternoon.
But it remained unclear whether the array of problems — many people received messages saying the system was down, and others were unable to create accounts to buy insurance — stemmed more from heavy traffic or from flaws in design. Federal and state officials had promised for months that the exchanges would be ready for heavy use by Oct. 1, and had run numerous tests to ensure that the complex systems would work properly from the start.
What does that tell us about the competence of the bureaucrats who will now run our insurance markets?
CBS Evening News also used the “glitches” nomenclature, but their website report warns that the crashing systems are raising new fears about data security as well:
Personal information for all of those customers will be routed from a federal datahub to the state-based exchanges, leaving people like Koester, and some health data experts, concerned about the program’s security.
As more health-related data is digitized, “the privacy violations are going to be incalculable,” Jim Pyles, an expert in health law who co-founded the law firm Powers Pyles Sutter & Verville, told CBSNews.com. …
That doesn’t mean the information is used to steal identities — a thief may steal a laptop from a hospital administrator just for the machine, not the data on it. In fact, medical identity theft — when a thief uses someone else’s name or health insurance information to get health care, get prescription drugs or file insurance claims — is a relatively small problem, based on complaints collected by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the agency in charge of consumer protection. Medical identity theft accounted for less than 1 percent of all complaints received by the FTC in 2012 — just 199 cases in all.
Those, however, are just the reported cases. “Once that information’s stolen electronically, the information can be copied infinitely and spread everywhere,” Pyles said. “It’s very, very difficult to stop fraud then.”
And while medical identity theft is rarely reported, identity theft generally speaking is a major problem — in 2012, identity theft accounted for 18 percent of the more than 2 million complaints that came into the FTC. Specifically, the FTC told a House Homeland Security subcommittee last month. The massive IT project, he said, has “literally no technical precedent.”
On Morning Joe today, the chyron called them “hiccups,” although Mike Barnicle unleashed some frustration after his experience with it:
Let’s do a thought experiment to reflect on media reporting of yesterday’s meltdown (which by many reports is continuing into today, and into the foreseeable future). Eight years ago, George W. Bush proposed a massive reform of Social Security into privately-held retirement accounts in order to (a) limit the growth of liabilities for the government and (b) to give retirees ownership and more control over their contributions. Recipients would have needed a web site to access their accounts and manage their investments. Imagine that Bush muscled such a system through on only Republican votes and rolled out the federal website that allowed this access, only to have it rendered inaccessible and open to all sorts of security holes.
Would the media have called those “glitches” and “snags,” discounting the risk of identity theft while underscoring the necessity of such a system? Or would they be reporting crashes, emphasizing identity-theft risks for retirees who try to use it, and ask questions about why the government overhauled the system when it couldn’t handle the outcome? I’m pretty sure that we wouldn’t be hearing about cute and cuddly glitchies under those circumstances.
Addendum: The Boss Emeritus warns the media not to forget the “fraud-stained navigators,” either:
As I warned in May, the Nanny State navigator corps is a serious threat to Americans’ privacy. Background checks and training requirements are minimal to nonexistent. A history of fraud is no barrier to entry.
Case in point: the seedy nonprofit Seedco. This community-organizing group snagged lucrative multimillion-dollar navigator contracts in Georgia, Maryland, Tennessee and New York. The New York Post reports this week that the outfit “is partnering with dozens of agencies, such as the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, Food Bank for New York City and the Chinese American Planning Council, in each of (the Big Apple’s) five boroughs.” They’ll have access to potential enrollees’ income levels, birthdates, addresses, eligibility for government assistance, Social Security numbers and intensely personal medical information.
Given the enormous responsibility to handle sensitive data in a careful, neutral manner, combined with the overwhelming pressure to boost Obamacare enrollments, you’d think the feds would only choose navigators with the most impeccable records. Yet, less than a year ago, Seedco agreed to settle a civil fraud lawsuit “for faking at least 1,400 of 6,500 job placements under a $22.2 million federally funded contract with the city.”
Seedco’s corrupt behavior went far beyond defrauding taxpayers through abuse of New York City programs, federal Labor Department funding and federal stimulus dollars. Seedco (which stands for “Structured Employment Economic Development Corporation”) tried to destroy and defame whistleblowing official Bill Harper, who discovered and reported the rampant falsification of data.
Be sure to read it all.