The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

Think Obamacare is Fixed? Think Again

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.


On Tuesday, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations had a hearing on the Obamacare website roll out and the numerous computer "glitches" that have and are continuing to surface since its opening on October 1.  It was an eye opening hearing and shows the website still is not really ready for prime time.

One of the revelations  regarding the Heathcare.gov website is that up to 40 percent of the HealthCare.gov website still needs to be built.  That’s right – 40 percent.  There is much more to be done before the Obama administration’s self-imposed November 30 deadline to have HealthCare.gov up and running effectively arrives.  Keep in mind that consumers have only until Dec. 15 to enroll in a healthcare plan to make sure they are covered by Jan. 1, 2014.  The Obama administration tech official that acknowledged this disturbing fact is no low-level bureaucrat.  He is Henry Chao, the deputy chief information officer at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS.)

What exactly needs to be built?  According to Politico, a Washington, D.C-based newspaper “financial management tools remain unfinished…particularly the process that will deliver payments to insurers” and the ”system isn’t yet ready to deliver federal subsidies to insurers.”  Politico points out that these “functions need to operate correctly so insurers can enroll the right people in the right plans.  That process, called reconciliation, has to work so people can get the care they seek starting as early as Jan. 1.”

Robert Laszewski said in his “Health Care Policy and Marketplace Review” blog on October 20 that the financial management tools not being ready is” like a bank starting business and attracting customers without finishing their ability to send their customers' monthly statements.”

The Hill, another D.C.-based newspaper reported, “CMS has said that the error rate for HealthCare.gov is below 1 percent, though the agency is still working to improve the flawed ‘834’ forms sent to insurance companies.”  Information on the importance of 834 transactions can be found here in another Laszewski blog.  Essentially, he says that “An 834 transaction is technical term for exactly how enrollment information is exchanged, in this case, between the federal government and the health insurance companies.”  How long will it take to fix the transactions?  At least a year according to an expert Laszewski interviewed.

Another huge revelation was that a report from the consulting firm McKinsey and Co. was provided to CMS and others in the administration at the end of March and officials were briefed in April.  It provided a clear warning that the HealthCare.gov website was not going to be ready by the October 1 launch date.  According to the Washington Post, the report “foreshadowed many of the problems that have dogged HealthCare.gov since its rollout, including the facts that the call-in centers would not work properly if the online system was malfunctioning and that insufficient testing would make it difficult to fix problems after the launch.”  The report was provided to the Post by the House Energy and Commerce Committee to the chagrin and anger of the Democrats who do not receive full copies of the report until less than 24 hours before the hearing.

When queried by members on the committee on whether he had ever seen the report’s analysis, Chao said “no.”  What has become clear in the series of hearings the House has held on HealthCare.gov is that no one was in charge making sure the website worked end to end.

The most succinct description with the HealthCare.gov roll out can be found in the O&I’s subcommittee press release.  It says:
Chao’s lack of awareness of the report speaks to a point made in the report itself, that there was “No single empowered decision-making authority,” and that there was no “shared definition of success.” Last week, President Obama told the American people that as of just two weeks prior to launch, he “was not informed directly that the website would not be working the way it was supposed to.” It’s clear that the administration’s transparency problem with the American people is also a transparency problem within the administration itself.”
But as President Obama likes to say, Obamacare is “more than a website” and he is correct on that matter at least, but not in the way he would like.  Free-market policy experts have been warning about the healthcare law’s policy implications for years and have been predicting that people would lose their insurance and that costs would rise.  We are starting to see these predictions come to fruition.  Just yesterday, the American Enterprise Institute released a report, that says the next large group that will experience loss of their health plans are small business.  Many of the cancellation notices will arrive a month before the November 2014 elections and could cause anywhere from 50 to 100 million people to lose their healthcare policies.  Will Congress attempt to delay this new Obamacare "glitch?"  That's the 50 - or should I say 100 million dollar question.

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