October 18, 2013

Reports Of Troubles Surrounding Piling Up

frustrated user

Reports continue to pile up of growing troubles surrounding, the Federally-run insurance marketplace set up under the Affordable Care Act which opened for enrollment October 1. Whether technical, financial, or political, the issues will likely be brought to the forefront as the budget negotiations fade from view.

Thursday night, NBC Nightly News reported, “Had it not been for the government shutdown becoming our lead story for these past 16 days and nights, it may well have been Obamacare and the incredibly rocky rollout for the Federal government’s healthcare website.” The report continued, “Some Republicans are saying the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, should be fired as a company’s CEO could be fired after any botched rollout like this.” Tom Costello then looked into “what went wrong,” focusing on the contractor behind the website, CGI Federal. Originally, CGI Federal “was awarded a $55.7 million contract for computer systems design services to build the website with a ceiling price tag at $94 million” and the contract shows that by May of this year, CGI “had spent $196 million and the ceiling price tag had soared to $292 million.”

On its front page, the Wall Street Journal  (10/18, A1, Weaver, Radnofsky, Subscription Publication) reports that insurers are warning they are getting erroneous data, including duplicate enrollments, spouses reported as children, missing data fields and suspicious eligibility determinations, from the Federal health insurance marketplace. The Journal notes that the erroneous data is an indication that the problems with the website are deeper than the traffic and software issues that have already been noted.

Moreover, USA Today  (10/18, A1, Kennedy) on its front page reports that technology experts say the Federal health exchange is likely to require “constant fixes” and “the eventual overhaul of the entire system” because it was “built using 10-year-old technology.” USA Today notes that while recent changes to the system have made it “easier to use,” the exchanges “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.”

In an article titled “Health-Law Scrutiny Likely To Intensify,” the Wall Street Journal  (10/18, Radnofsky, Weaver, Subscription Publication) predicts that with budget battles retreating from view, attention is likely to shift onto the Affordable Care Act and its tumultuous rollout. The piece focuses on the distraction Republicans created by launching a battle against the law which led to a sixteen day government shutdown. Still, as the WSJ points out, the Administration is responsible for the glitches and technical problems that plague the site beyond the shutdown.

And now, as FOX News  (10/18) reports on its website, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is planning to investigate the technical problems with the launch, “including the contractors that were paid hundreds of millions of dollars to create it.” The panel “has been steadily firing off letters over the past several days seeking answers to why the site was not fully operational when it launched on Oct. 1.” In addition, the committee said Thursday that it has “scheduled a hearing on the issue for Oct. 24, and have asked Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to attend.”

In response, Politico  (10/18, Epstein) reports that White house press secretary Jay Carney stressed on Thursday that the ACA “is more than just a balky website and is proceeding with some success.” Carney said, “It’s important to remember the website alone is not the Affordable Care Act.” He added that the President “is not happy about what the White House has termed ‘glitches’ in that have prevented an unknown number of people from registering for new health care plans.”

The Hill  (10/18, Sink) reports that Carney said the President “was seeking ‘accountability’ from federal employees working to fix glitches” with the site, but “sidestepped questions about whether the administration would seek to recover any of the millions of dollars paid to contractors responsible for building” it. The Hill adds that the White House said the President did not discuss the ACA in his speech Thursday morning “because that address was designed to highlight priorities for Congress in the coming months.”

On its website, MSNBC  (10/18, Cowley) notes that while issues “could weaken public confidence and keep the president on the defensive during a critical period,” the glitches themselves “are unlikely to derail health care reform.”

Reuters  (10/18, Skinner) and Modern Healthcare  (10/18, McKinney, Subscription Publication) focus on how the technical problems are affecting navigators, trying to help consumers through the process. Offering other accounts of the various troubles swirling around are the Financial Times  (10/18, Silverman, Subscription Publication), another piece from Reuters  (10/18, Morgan), CNN  (10/18, Mcconnell, Todd), MSNBC’s The Cycle, the MSNBC  (10/18) website, Politico  (10/18, Haberkorn), FOX News  (10/18), The Hill  (10/18, Hattem) “Regwatch” blog, The Hill  (10/18, Viebeck) “Healthwatch” blog, CQ  (10/18, Reichard, Subscription Publication), a separate piece from CQ  (10/18, Adams, Subscription Publication), Forbes  (10/18, Worstall), the Kaiser Health News  (10/18, Galewitz) “Capsules” blog, and Modern Healthcare  (10/18, Conn, Subscription Publication).

State Exchanges Faring Better Than The CBS Evening News examined the state-run exchanges which opened in 16 states and the District of Columbia on October 1. CBS’ Elaine Quijano profiled New York’s marketplace, the New York State of Health, which “is hoping to enroll 1.1 million people…over the next three years.” New York Department of Health’s Lisa Sprana told Quijano that the exchange “might be exceeding” this goal. With about “115,000 people so far who have already come through the marketplace system and have been found eligible for coverage,” this makes New York “among the state leaders for completed applications.” Quijano also pointed out that New York “did not use the software designers behind the Federal government’s troubled exchange.”

Providing state-specific accounts are the Detroit Free Press  (10/18, Erb) and MLive  (10/18) from Michigan, the San Francisco Chronicle  (10/18, Ross) from California, the Kaiser Health News  (10/18, Stawicki) “Capsules” blog from Minnesota, Modern Healthcare  (10/18, Conn, Subscription Publication) from Kentucky, the Deseret (UT) News  (10/18, Leonard) in Utah, and the Daily Caller  (10/18, Volpe) and the Shawnee (KS) Dispatch  (10/18) in Kansas.

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