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Long wait times not the only issue with Obamacare website

Long wait times not the only issue with Obamacare website

Since its initial rollout on Tuesday, the Healthcare.gov system has been plagued by technical glitches and long wait times. Some have tried to offer potential reasons, explaining that the system must communicate with many other systems and that’s further complicated by the fact that the intake its receiving is unique to those online users, according to some professionals interviewed by NPR.

Obama administration officials have repeatedly blamed the issues on the overwhelming demand from users trying to sign up for a health insurance plan.  A challenge that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius called “a great problem to have.”

https://twitter.com/NoahCRothman/status/385096364058624000

But as NPR noted, many didn’t even get far enough in the process to answer any questions that would determine their plan and tax credit qualifications.

But a lot of folks trying to sign up on Tuesday didn’t even get that far in the process. Hawaii’s exchange didn’t go up, and Maryland’s site was intermittent throughout the day. For millions relying on the federal site, just getting to a registration form was impossible.

“We’re still blocked out. We can’t even get in at this point,” said Travis Middleton, a Houston-based insurance agent who was trying out the healthcare.gov site.

The system was swamped. Health officials blame unexpectedly high traffic for the long wait times and crashes — 3 million people visited healthcare.gov between midnight and 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday, health officials said. The agency overseeing the exchange system says it’s implementing fixes as quickly as possible.

Since Tuesday, I myself have been stuck in Zombieland, with an account that exists but simultaneously doesn’t exist.  I was finally able to create an account after a solid day of unsuccessful attempts, but the system doesn’t recognize that account when I try to log in.  When I finally got through to a phone representative, she tried to explain the problem away as an issue related to the high volume and told me to try logging in again next week.

And earlier today, Miami Herald’s Florida Health Watch tweeted that Healthcare.gov call center reps say they can’t access system, either.

https://twitter.com/HeraldHealth/status/386158599669444609

While the White House has been reluctant to release any numbers on enrollees so far, the numbers being reported through some insurance industry officials haven’t looked so good.

This is different than an Apple product launch

President Obama has defended the messy launch in recent remarks, saying, “Like every new law, every new product rollout, there are going to be some glitches in the sign-up process along the way that we are going to fix. I have been saying this from the start.”  He also compared the situation to Apple’s recent launch challenges.

Consider that just a couple of weeks ago, Apple rolled out a new mobile operating system, and within days, they found a glitch, so they fixed it. I don’t remember anybody suggesting Apple should stop selling iPhones or iPads or threatening to shut down the company if they didn’t. That’s not how we do things in America.

I expected there to be some glitches, as there always are with a major rollout of something of this magnitude. And I’ll be honest and say that I was even willing to excuse some of it at first. Having been a web developer in the past, I’m probably a little more sympathetic to circumstances like this.

Problems with volume alone are common issues that come up during a large deployment; it’s something that teams of testers usually simulate in what’s typically referred to as load and stress testing.  With all the pre-launch promotion the administration has done about the Affordable Care Act and the exchange website, I can’t imagine that they hadn’t planned and tested for such high volume. (It’s government, OK, maybe I can).  I do find it very concerning that the volume seems to have caught them off-guard.

Healthcare.gov-chat

But as the problems have persisted for days and upon seeing details about some of the specific issues outside of just long wait times, my sympathetic side has all but dwindled to non-existent. I have a hard time comprehending how some of the errors I’ve seen are caused simply by high volume.  And I’m apparently not alone in this skepticism.

The truth of the matter is that the Affordable Care Act mandates that people be insured, eventually (with some exemptions).  This is a law, with consequences for those who don’t comply.  This isn’t an iPhone or some product that we can just complain about when a rollout goes awry.  Most will be required to sign up for a plan or pay a penalty.

So no, this isn’t like an Apple product rollout, Mr. President.  No one is requiring Apple consumers to buy a product or else pay a penalty.

https://twitter.com/ezraklein/status/386170306400124928

Admittedly, there are still several months before the mandate will kick in.  Perhaps the government will have all the problems with healthcare.gov fixed in plenty of time for people to meet the signup deadline.  But unless the administration is open and honest about exactly what the problems are with the system, it will be hard to fix them.  Given that volume alone seems to have caught them by surprise, let’s just say that the whole situation has not exactly been confidence boosting. And confidence is going to be an issue for some people when you require them to do something.

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Comments

Why in the world are you trying to sign up? You don’t actually trust the POS with your personal info, do you?

    So I could see how the site works. They collect more info when you actually sign up for a plan – I was just creating a login account, not signing up for a plan.

    I’m a self-payer though. Haven’t been able to buy insurance for several years no matter how much I’ve wanted to (even limited insurance for me has been completely unattainable, and I’ve looked everywhere). So at some point down the road, I may end up *having* to sign up for a plan or pay the fine to meet the mandate. Which makes me very nervous. Unless there’s magically some real consideration of a better private market solution before then – i.e. just being able to buy plans in other states would be a big help for someone like me.

      rodaka in reply to Mandy Nagy. | October 4, 2013 at 11:24 pm

      Unless you overpay on your taxes, who will ensure that you pay the fine? As far as I know, Congress did not authorize the IRS to prosecute for unpaid penalties.

        Musson in reply to rodaka. | October 5, 2013 at 10:37 am

        The IRS has already announced they will be garnishing wages and levying against property to collect these fines. Remember – the SC said they are taxes so they are already authorized to ‘collect’ them.

      janitor in reply to Mandy Nagy. | October 4, 2013 at 11:36 pm

      I’ll be damned if I go anywhere near an Obamacare website, let them log IP, take my email address and contact info, or anything else. Nor am I going to respond to any tax return questions regarding my insurance.

      With regard to the “penalty” however, it appears that the IRS may in fact be planning to consider it a “tax” (no thank you Supreme Court) collectable through their ordinary channels. If they do that, failure to pay it may well mess up people’s income tax payments by misapplying income taxes paid in for the Obamacare penalty, and then claiming a deficit in the income taxes. Even if the penalty is paid, your tax return and you likely are going to be targeted for harassment. I hope there are enough brave souls ready to go to Tax Court and contest the validity of the Obamacare penalty as a “tax”.

      wyntre in reply to Mandy Nagy. | October 5, 2013 at 12:16 pm

      Well, be careful.

Its quite interesting that the Democrats said there were 47 Million people that needed healthcare and 3 million hits was enough to crash the website. Typical Gov spin,waste,incompetence,and lies!

    A web developer and govt contractor I know said that many of these sites are so bad they will not be repaired for months and months. He is predicting the fines will have to be waived for the 1st year.

OT: Dan Riehl hasn’t posted anything on his site for at least 5 weeks. Does anyone know why? Remember that he had a serious health problem several months ago. Many bloggers asked for prayers and donations for Dan back then, but I haven’t seen anything about his absence this time. I just want to know if he’s OK, or if he needs anything from his stranger-friends in the blogosphere.

More OT (sorry, but I don’t see a recent relevant post where I could put this link):

http://www.maggiesnotebook.com/2013/10/us-mil-priests-not-allowed-to-volunteer-mass-prayer-to-troops-during-shutdown-threatened-with-arrest/

Bambi is totally out of control.

Type here
OK.

Blonde-Brunette-Redhead.
Beautiful smile.
Intelligent.
Bright happy outlook.
Must have shapely legs.
Trim figure.
And, umm, well, you know, uhh, well endowed.

Mi nam ees José Jiménez.

an account that exists but simultaneously doesn’t exist.

Schroedinger’s Healthcare?

If Obama had a website, it would look like Healthcare.gov

So if Harry Reid had not been hell bent to refuse to take up the House’s last CR to avoid the shutdown, this would have been given more attention. Almost as if Reid and Obama planned this, huh?

    DriveBy in reply to Annie. | October 4, 2013 at 9:34 pm

    Thank you! Best post all day for me! I was confused at how both the federal and the individual state’s computer systems could have fatal “glitches.” Many people seem to believe that the state’s have college volunteers or prison inmates putting their systems together, but that is not the case. I have read about at least three state’s expenditures on this, and it ranges from $50,000,000.00 – $80,000,000.00 per state! All three states contracted with Deloitte LLP, and the costs are being reimbursed by the Federal Gov’t.

Midwest Rhino | October 4, 2013 at 8:58 pm

The rollout is not the problem. The problem is that most of us can’t keep our same insurance.

We have to add coverage for mental care for drug addicts, which only the $100/hour psychologists are happy with.

And we have to buy prenatal care, for kids we will never see.

And I have to pay for the obese smokers’ knee operations and lung transplants, even though I don’t smoke and I stay fit.

Those 47 million supposed uninsured are half illegal aliens already sucking up benefits. Another quarter are young people that may well CHOOSE to still not buy insurance, which under Obamacare is four times higher than previously.

Why didn’t they just put the final 12 million uninsured (is that even true?) into a government pool in the first place, and leave the rest of us alone? Oh, because they wanted to suck out the biggest middle class tax increase in history, and claim it was for our own good. And they want CONTROL.

And what if the initial rate given is just a teaser rate? They don’t seem to have any clue just how expensive this thing will really be, considering all the extras they are tossing in.

    Henry Hawkins in reply to Midwest Rhino. | October 4, 2013 at 10:10 pm

    “We have to add coverage for mental care for drug addicts, which only the $100/hour psychologists are happy with.”

    HEY! I’m a psychologist, but I don’t take insurance. Plus I donate services free for veterans. Me no money grubber.

      Midwest Rhino in reply to Henry Hawkins. | October 5, 2013 at 9:44 am

      It is certainly an important field, but ripe for abuse when everyone happy with their insurance, now has it added to their plan.

    If Switzerland provides any clues, the future WILL bring increased premiums. Or decreased level of care. But probably both, just because they can.

3 million hits in a day can be handled with one server. A number of sites have more than 1,000 servers.

why register and give your personal info on an insecure system?

Henry Hawkins | October 4, 2013 at 10:12 pm

It’s like being ordered by the government to take a flight, and when you get to your plane it’s old and rickety, leaking fuel, and the pilot is drunk.

This is what happens when you let government IT people handle things. Bear in mind that Drudge gets 24 million hits a day. Eventually they will wise up and get some professional IT guys to do it. Based on prior experience with government web sites, it should be all fixed in 2-3 years. I’m sure we can do without health insurance until then, right?

The site was built by Canadians. So many IT people in the USA and Obama, hellbent on not employing Americans, contracts the job out to foreigners.

The motto for the healthcare.gov site: built by foreigners doing the job that Americans won’t do.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/04/us-usa-healthcare-technology-technology-idUSBRE99312620131004

Information technology failure is standard operating procedure for our government. Note that the IRS has tried repeatedly to modernize its computer systems, and has failed repeatedly. The IRS is supposed to administer the penalties for ObamaCare. Good luck.

The goverment’s answer is more legislation. Look for this solution to ObamaCare, say every year from now on.

Legislation to Stop Gov’t IT Failures
Dec 2008 – CIO website
=== ===
The U.S. Government has a sordid history of IT project failures. There’s the FBI’s virtual case file system, which the agency scrapped in 2005 after sinking $170 million into it; the $8 billion systems modernization the IRS launched nearly 10 years ago; and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ $190 million automation effort, to name just a few standouts.

Naturally, the government’s solution to its IT project management problems has been legislation. The Information Technology Management Reform Act of 1996, also known as the Clinger-Cohen Act, requires federal agencies to hire strategic CIOs who can implement best practices for managing IT from the corporate world in the public sector. Agency heads are required under Section 11317 of Title 40 of the U.S. Code to identify in their IT management plans any major IT project that “has significantly deviated from the cost, performance or schedule goals established” for that project.
=== ===

EasyOpinions

Won’t be long before spam / phish emails lure people to bogus Obamacare sites. People will think they are getting “free” or “affordable” health care whilst giving everything about their personal business away. This system provides an easy pathway for identity fraud.

Does Anyone Think the Syrian Electronic Army would Miss Opening Day for ObamaCare Healthcare Exchanges Hint Slow and Crashing Portals Sorry for the cheap and shameless plug

http://www.redneckrepublic.org/2013/10/04/obamacare-healthcare-exchange-portal-crashes-sheer-volume-or-syrian-electronic-armys-quest-for-the-holy-grail/

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