The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

Healthcare.gov is Up and Running...Sort of

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


The administration declared success in its efforts to meet its self-imposed deadline of November 30 to improve the Healthcare.gov website.  With little fanfare, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency charged with overseeing Obamacare, stated “we believe we have met the goal of having a system that will work smoothly for the vast majority of users.”  To back up their claim, they released an 8-page report on Sunday, December 1.

But the Wall Street Journal certainly reviewed the news with some skepticism as did others.  Regarding the CMS  report, the editorial noted it is “short on basic information.  The eight pages are heavy on charts with unverifiable claims.”  For example, the editorial points out, “the progress report reveals that the website is functioning more than 90% of the time – excluding periods when it is shut down for maintenance.  HHS won't say how often that is or for how long.  Why not simply proclaim that it works 100% of the time, as long as you don't count the times when it doesn't?”

Furthermore, the Journal states the, “miracle defies other evidence, such as the recent admission by an HHS official that 30% to 40% of the exchanges are still unfinished.  Much of this involves the ‘back end’ of the exchange operation that provides information to insurers but that consumers don't see.  In a pre-Thanksgiving news dump, HHS even gave up on the federal exchanges for small business and delayed those for a year.”

The Journal is referring to a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee hearing held just over two weeks ago in which it was announced by Henry Chao, the CMS deputy chief information officer, that much of the website, which provides information insurance companies need, still needs to be constructed.  An article in today’s New York Times by Robert Pear echoes the ongoing problems of getting vital enrollment information to the insurance companies.

No doubt the administration remains concerned over the functionality of the website.  Eliana Johnson points out on National Review’s blog how Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius’s op-ed in USA Today, “ doesn’t quite express full confidence in its ability to do what it is supposed to do” and how the secretary pleading “not to give up” is  “another piece of evidence that while [Jeffrey] Zeints and his colleagues have managed to improve the site, even the most ardent proponents of the law remain on the defensive, and uneasy about its ability to do the job.” (Zeints was appointed by President Obama to oversee the repair of Healthcare.gov.)

It’s not surprising the administration “urged their allies to hold back enrollment efforts so the insurance marketplace does not collapse under a crush of new users.”

But even if the website eventually works like a charm, CAGW has stated before the website is only part of the problem.  The real issues lie in the healthcare law’s policy. We have already seen millions of people lose insurance policies they liked and could afford and that will continue.  With Healthcare.gov supposedly working more efficiently, more people will be given the opportunity to experience sticker shock as they finally get to see what plans are offered in the exchanges.

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