- Technology experts say the flaws could do lasting damage
- Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius criticized for declining to testify before an oversight panel
- Administration officials blame problems on an unexpectedly high volume of 14.6 million visitors in its first ten days
PUBLISHED: 13:28 EST, 18 October 2013 | UPDATED: 13:48 EST, 18 October 2013
After weeks of a dysfunctioning website and mass derision, the Obamacare exchange woes are only starting as some are now giving insurers the wrong date on patients. And the trouble isn’t over.
One technology expert claims the faulty sites, which cost nearly $400 million to build, were made on ten-year-old technology that will require constant fixes and eventually the entire system will have to be overhauled.
A technology expert said the flaws could do lasting damage to the law if customers are deterred from signing up or mistakenly believe they have obtained coverage.
Welcome to the disaster: Healthcare.gov is more than three years and $394 million in the making, but few Americans have been able to make it function, leaving a trail of discouraged consumers in its wake
Stern: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the end of the U.S. government shutdown in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, October 17, 2013
John Engates, chief technology officer at Rackspace, told USA Today that recent changes have made the system easier to use, but they still require clearing the computer’s cache several times, stopping a pop-up blocker, talking to people via Web chat who suggest waiting until the server is not busy, opening links in new windows and clicking on every available possibility on a page in the hopes of not receiving an error message.
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius made time for Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, but his pointed barbs have her scrambling to avoid testifying before Congress about the disastrous Obamacare website
The whole process takes about an hour and should not be necessary to enroll.
Republicans chastised President Obama’s top health adviser on Thursday for declining to testify before an oversight panel about the problems in rolling out Obamacare.
Less than a day after Congress ended a 16-day partial government shutdown precipitated by Republican demands to delay or defund Obamacare, they sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius demanding she make officials available for the October 24 hearing.
The online insurance exchanges that are a central part of Obamacare rolled out on October 1 despite the shutdown but have been hobbled by technical difficulties that Sebelius has said are being fixed.
‘I will be the first to tell you that the website launch was rockier than we wanted it to be,’ Sebelius said on Wednesday at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, adding that people have until December 15 to enroll to ensure coverage beginning January 1.
Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is expected to provide private health coverage to an estimated seven million uninsured Americans through the new online marketplaces that opened for enrollment in all 50 states on October 1.
But the website Healthcare.gov, the administration’s online portal for consumers in 36 states, was hobbled by technical issues – including error messages, garbled text, delays loading pages, duplicate enrollments, spouses reported as children, missing data fields and suspect eligibility determinations.
Administration officials partly blame these problems on an unexpectedly high volume of 14.6 million visitors in its first ten days.
Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Nebraska said it had to hire temporary workers to contact new customers directly to resolve inaccuracies in submissions.
Medical Mutual of Ohio said one customer had successfully signed up for three of its plans.
According to a poll conducted by United Sample Inc, the site’s problems have not driven away potential customers.
More than a week into the glitch-littered launch of the ObamaCare insurance ‘exchanges’, critics are decrying the roll-out as a ‘train wreck’ that should give everyone pause about requiring individuals to use the new system
The survey found that among the 832 people who attempted to log in, 38 per cent received an error message, 50 per cent were asked to try again later, 25 per cent were unable to create an account, 31 per cent were told the system was down, and 19 per cent had no problems.
About 83 per cent said they would try again later, while 15 per cent said they would wait until they heard the website was working well.
About 70 per cent of those who said they had no issues said they still waited to enroll because they want to think about their options.
Sebelius recently appeared on the cable-television comedy program, ‘The Daily Show with Jon Stewart’ for an interview that focused on the website’s problems.
But HHS and the White House have largely declined to disclose information about the problems plaguing the federal marketplace’s information technology system, which cost nearly $400 million to build, according to a report by the watchdog Government Accountability Office.
‘This is wholly unacceptable. Secretary Sebelius had time for Jon Stewart, and we expect her to have time for Congress,’ Republican Representative Fred Upton said.
Upton’s panel is one of at least three House committees expected to hold hearings as part of a new Republican plan to attack the healthcare reform’s weaknesses, beginning with the problem-plagued technology behind its launch.
The oversight is expected to span the cost of new insurance plans under the healthcare law, online security, fraud, the role of the Internal Revenue Service and the fate of consumers who are unable to enroll in coverage in the coming weeks, according to congressional aides.
‘It’s not just a bumpy rollout. We’re crossing a bridge with a warning sign that says: BRIDGE OUT,’ said Republican Representative Tim Murphy, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce panel’s health subcommittee and plans to hold his own hearings.
‘We’ll be trying to get people from the administration to tell us whether they were pretending everything was OK or was there an internal cover-up or did they just not know?’ he added.
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