The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

Obamacare Opening Day – Can You Say Fiasco?

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.


I tried to get information on Obamacare yesterday by logging onto www.healthcare.gov.  The only thing I accomplished was being transferred to my state exchange.  The state website is still experiencing difficulties today so I haven’t been able to find out if the current plan I have (which I pay for out-of-pocket) is more expensive than what I can find in Obamacare.  Apparently, I am not alone according to press reports.  A MSNBC reporter tried to login on live television yesterday with no luck as did a CNN reporter.

In my state exchange, I was required to create an account that asks me to fill out all sorts of personal information: name, address, sex, age, and so forth when all I want is a quote.  I started to do so, well at least before the site crashed but wondered why?  If I go to E-Insurance, all I am asked is to provide is my sex, age, and zip-code and I get a several quick quotes within seconds.

While the administration is trying to spin the technical problems are due to the fact that so many people are eager to get access to Obamacare and the website couldn’t handle it, the potential IT problems have been known for months.

Back in July, Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee expressed concern in a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius whether the exchanges would be ready in all 50 states by October 1, especially since the department spent “nearly $400 million on private contractors for exchange infrastructure.”  The committee also references two Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports: “Status of CMS Efforts to Establish Federally Facilitated Health Insurance Exchanges” and “Status of Federal and State Efforts to Establish Health Insurance Exchanges for Small Business” and the problems that were uncovered.

In GAO’s report on CMS’s efforts, the finding was:

Much progress has been made, but much remains to be accomplished within a relatively short amount of time.  CMS's timelines provide a roadmap to completion; however, factors such as the still-evolving scope of CMS's required activities in each state and the many activities yet to be performed--some close to the start of enrollment--suggest a potential for challenges going forward.  And while the missed interim deadlines may not affect implementation, additional missed deadlines closer to the start of enrollment could do so.  CMS recently completed risk assessments and plans for mitigating risks associated with the data hub, and is also working on strategies to address state preparedness contingencies.  Whether these efforts will assure the timely and smooth implementation of the exchanges by October 2013 cannot yet be determined.

In commenting on a draft of this report, the Department of Health and Human Services emphasized the progress it has made in establishing exchanges, and expressed its confidence that exchanges will be open and functioning in every state by October 1, 2013."

In their report relating to the exchanges called SHOPs for small businesses, their findings were pretty much the same as above.  GAO expressed concerns about missed deadlines that would lead to further delays and whether the states and the federal government would be ready on October 1.

But the Department of HHS took action with the SHOP exchanges.  It delayed enrollment until November 1, 2013, just like other major parts of the law.  (Let’s see if that November date holds.)  You may recall HHS delayed the employer mandate, out-of-pocket caps, and checking the eligibility of people for Obamacare’s subsidies.

One of the biggest concerns has been security in the data-hub and it remains a concern today.  All the personal data gathered in one place, such as social security numbers, financial data, size of family and so forth, is a huge invitation to hackers for all sorts of nefarious activities.  Plus navigators, people that are practically being dragged off the street and hired to help customers navigate through the sign-up process with Obamacare, will not have their backgrounds checked due to time constraints.  The navigators, some of who come from politicized groups – think community organizers – will have access to very sensitive personal information as well.

This week Republicans are arguing on Capitol Hill about what should be contained in the continuing resolution, the spending bill that would re-open and fund the government.  One idea that is currently being pushed is a delay in the individual mandate for Obamacare.  If the computer glitches keep happening in the Obamacare enrollment process, it might just happen.

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