By: Robert Pear, Sharon LaFreniere and Ian Austen (New York Times)
In March, Henry Chao, the chief digital architect for the Obama administration’s new online insurance marketplace, told industry executives that he was deeply worried about the Web site’s debut. “Let’s just make sure it’s not a third-world experience,” he told them.
Two weeks after the rollout, few would say his hopes were realized.
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For the past 12 days, a system costing more than $400 million and billed as a one-stop click-and-go hub for citizens seeking health insurance has thwarted the efforts of millions to simply log in. The growing national outcry has deeply embarrassed the White House, which has refused to say how many people have enrolled through the federal exchange.
Even some supporters of the Affordable Care Act worry that the flaws in the system, if not quickly fixed, could threaten the fiscal health of the insurance initiative, which depends on throngs of customers to spread the risk and keep prices low.
“These are not glitches,” said an insurance executive who has participated in manyconference calls on the federal exchange. Like many people interviewed for this article, the executive spoke on the condition of anonymity, saying he did not wish to alienate the federal officials with whom he works. “The extent of the problems is pretty enormous. At the end of our calls, people say, ‘It’s awful, just awful.’ ”
Interviews with two dozen contractors, current and former government officials, insurance executives and consumer advocates, as well as an examination of confidential administration documents, point to a series of missteps — financial, technical and managerial — that led to the troubles.
Politics made things worse. To avoid giving ammunition to Republicans opposed to the project, the administration put off issuing several major rules until after last November’s elections. The Republican-controlled House blocked funds. More than 30 states refused to set up their own exchanges, requiring the federal government to vastly expand its project in unexpected ways.
By: Amy Goldstein and Ariana Eunjung Cha (Washington Post)
The federal health-care exchange that opened a dozen days ago is marred by snags beyond the widely publicized computer gridlock that has thwarted Americans trying to buy a health plan. Even when consumers have been able to sign up, insurers sometimes can’t tell who their new customers are because of a separate set of computer defects.
The problems stem from a feature of the online marketplace’s computer system that is designed to send each insurer a daily report listing people who have just enrolled. According to several insurance industry officials, the reports are sometimes confusing and duplicative. In some cases, they show — correctly or not — that the same person enrolled and canceled several times on a single day.
The ability of consumers to sign up for a health plan, and the ability of the insurers to know who they are covering, is key to the success of the federal law that will for the first time require most Americans to have health insurance starting Jan. 1. The Web sitewww.healthcare.gov is the main path for millions of Americans in 36 states to purchase new coverage.
The flawed enrollment reports illustrate that the site is bedeviled by problems that go beyond what the Obama administration has acknowledged in explaining the creaky performance of the exchange so far.
At the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services, officials have portrayed the exchange as a victim of its own popularity, with a larger-than-expected crush of Americans rushing to a Web site that wasn’t built to accommodate so many people at once.
That explanation puts the focus up front — on the servers and software that help consumers take the first step of registering for an account. Evidence is emerging from the insurance industry and elsewhere, however, that the exchange also has flaws that show up further along in the process — as consumers try to check whether they qualify for federal subsidies and as insurers try to find out who has enrolled.