Password Confusion Causes More Trouble for Obamacare's Exchanges

Healthcare.govHealthcare.govA little more than a week after the disastrous launch of Obamacare’s health insurance exchanges, on October 8, Ars Technica reported that hopeful applicants trying to use the federal exchange system were being told by help line workers that all passwords were being cleared and reset as part of the effort to get the system working.

More than a week later, that seems to be causing some problems, or at least some confusion, reports CNN, which spoke with multiple call center workers yesterday about password issues:

The Obamacare website, which launched October 1, deleted some users' passwords, according to multiple call center representatives for the site.

Five call center agents told CNN on Wednesday that because of an upgrade to the beleaguered website, many passwords were deleted if they were created in the first week or so after the launch. More recently created user names and passwords don't seem to have the same problems.

If the representatives have it right, some users will continue having trouble logging in, no matter how many times they try.

"They did maintenance on the website recently and deleted all the passwords, so they needed resetting," one agent wrote in a live online chat with a CNN reporter who has been attempting to go through the process of using the site.

"They deleted passwords on accident," said another agent who answered the phone at the healthcare.gov call center. "They lost them."

An unnamed federal official tells CNN that the navigators are wrong, and that the system never deleted any passwords. Instead, “the call agents were reading from a script that was given to them by mistake.” Whoops!

I don't know what happened here, but either way it's not exactly reassuring. Either the system managers unintentionally deleted a bunch of user passwords while attempting fixes and thus made it even harder for people to login to a system that is already incredibly difficult to access, or the help center workers—who are supposed to serve as a frontline for customer assistance—are giving people bad information because they were told to give people that bad information in a screw-up by the administration.  

This isn’t going very well is it? 

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  • The Late P Brooks||

    Passwords? We don' need no steenkin passwords.

  • Lady Bertrum||

    FUBAR.

  • Ken Shultz||

    If this were a private company rather than the government, there would be all sorts of investigations and probes going on.

    The states would be probing these operations themselves, and they'd be banding together to sue.

    There's a word for what they're doing with these exchanges; it's a word that we don't use as much as we used to; it's called "vaporware".

    I don't know if you want to call ObamaCare "vaporware", but that's what the exchanges are. They're marketing something that doesn't really exist.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xv2UUcXCo9g

  • Bee Tagger||

    I really like Laura Gibson's music/voice.

    Had I come across this video without the context of your comment and without reading the YouTube commenters I might not have realized it was an Obamacare promotion. In fact, I thought it was a contest for penning a promo for the state of Oregon, until I snapped-to and realized you probably didn't just post a link to a random Laura Gibson song.

  • SugarFree||

    Has anything additional come out on the hypothesis that many of the problems are due to the websites forcing you to put in all your information before you could see the pricing?

  • Peter Suderman||

    A little. I may write more about that later today.

  • SugarFree||

    Thanks, Peter.

  • Lord Humungus||

    I bet you say that every hour.

  • SugarFree||

    It'a all about sex with you. Jeez.

  • Lord Humungus||

    Guilty as charged.

  • db||

    Well, it's all about sex with something.

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    It's going pretty well for snarkers and comedians of all stripes. I applaud this Full Employment For Snarkers and Comediens Act.

  • Sevo||

    Scarecrow Repair|10.18.13 @ 10:51AM|#
    "It's going pretty well for snarkers and comedians of all stripes. I applaud this Full Employment For Snarkers and Comediens Act."

    How about those trying to spin excuses? I mean, they're on overtime!

  • fish_remote||

    The excuse makers are on the TEAM GOV payroll so they're getting paid no matter how weak the excuses offered!

  • Sevo||

    Hey, and they were 'essential', so they didn't get time off with pay!

  • Cdr Lytton||

    Comediens

    Canadien comedians?

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    Transnationalgendered or something.

  • wareagle||

    if I didn't know better, I might conclude that these snafus are features rather than bugs. But that can't be right. Can it?

  • prolefeed||

    Features if you're a Republican legislator, bugs if you're from TEAM BLUE.

    Shorter: value is subjective.

  • wareagle||

    you sure that's not backwards? Don't look at this from a rational perspective.

  • ||

    Someone check with Chad Henderson, to see if he ever actually bought insurance.

    I'm curious to know if his password was reset.

  • Calvin Coolidge||

    Wasn't the warm fuzzy from that story that he learned he didn't have to buy insurance because he could get on Medicaid? Every time someone goes on government assistance, another Progressive gets their wings!

    Some ReTHUGliKKKans were even evil enough to point out that, as a 21YO who lives at home, he could get coverage on his parent's plan.

  • SugarFree||

    His parents don't have insurance either. That's where the "signing up my dad" nonsense came from that got him busted.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I'm sure there are people out there who are gonna get through (even if the government has to give them special treatment and set them up as a showcase), but just because we find a few of them, someday, that doesn't mean the average person is going to be able to use these systems anytime soon and get the advertised results.

    Again, regulators would shut this all down if it was coming from the private sector. And I'm sure Obama would make all of these exchanges go away if he could. You know what it reminds me of?

    Remember when all those millions of gallons of oil were pouring into the Gulf of Mexico, day after day, and Obama was just going around making speeches talking about how concerned he was--but he was really just walking around in circles waiting for someone to tell him what to do?

    That's what this reminds me of. How long have these exchanges been up already? What's going on, Mr. President? Why aren't you doing something?

  • Homple||

    Indeed. Why isn't he pacing the Oval Office floor waiting to find out "whose ass to kick"?

  • Michael Price||

    "Again, customers would shut this all down if it was coming from the private sector."
    Fixed that for you.

  • prolefeed||

    Either the system managers unintentionally deleted a bunch of user passwords while attempting fixes and thus made it even harder for people to login to a system that is already incredibly difficult to access, or the help center workers—who are supposed to serve as a frontline for customer assistance—are giving people bad information because they were told to give people that bad information in a screw-up by the administration.

    You left out "The managers INTENTIONALLY deleted a bunch of user passwords, thinking they needed to do so to fix the system, even though that didn't work, then went into CYA (Cover Your Ass) mode."

  • Ken Shultz||

    Well they'd already tried Control-Alt-Delete, and that didn't work...

    They had to do something!

  • Brett L||

    I'm guessing they had a different seed for the hash algorithm writing to the table than on the login page, so passwords were never verified as correct.

  • Ruckus||

    why are you making the assumption they were hashing the passwords?

  • Calvin Coolidge||

    Wow, who would have expected a Government program to be afflicted with so much waste, incompetence, and secrecy? Capitalism must be to blame.

    I wonder how Free Markets caused this to happen?

  • Jordan||

    It's the transitive property of BOOOOOOSH!

  • tarran||

    I wonder how Free Markets caused this to happen?

    I believe the Free Markets broke it the same way Hobbes broke Calvin's new beanie propeller...

  • Jordan||

    HA HA!
    /Nelson Muntz

    The good news for the call center workers is that insurers won't be able to turn away alcoholics.

  • Calvin Coolidge||

    Just tell them that there is booze in the filing cabinets and the call centers won't be able to turn them away if they try.

  • Lady Bertrum||

    Little known fact: Every person with an addict relative will be signing them up for OC and on Jan. 1 in-patient facilities will experience a wave of new customers.

    Hurrrah, public dime!!!

  • tarran||

    I doubt the call center people were reading from the wrong script.

    My guess is that
    a) They lacked the capability to restore their database from backups (don't laugh this happens far more often than one would think)

    b) Someone was trying to an ALTER COLUMN command that was being rejected because the data in the column violated the new constraints, and so they replaced all the values with NULLs while making the change, intending to reload the data later, and discovered they couldn't reload it.

    Everything I see makes me think that they are rearchitecting the system on the fly in a panic.

  • Spoonman.||

    the data in the column violated the new constraints...intending to reload the data later

    Even if they had a backup, it would still violate the new column constraints.

  • tarran||

    Yes, but you can reject those individual items while reloading the data that doesn't violate the constraints.

    Another possibility is that the password encryption turned out to be shit, and so they decided to reset everyone's account...

  • SweatingGin||

    Could be someone already compromised it.

  • Brett L||

    That's a good guess.

  • Bryan C||

    Everytime Little Bobby Tables tried to sign up, the system would crash.

  • Bardas Phocas||

    I'd hate to have my access to HEALTH CARE be limited by the my computer password.

    But luckly, this isn't the case. It's just your access to a website, that will take a ton of personal data, churn it through verification and subsidy calculators to then, eventually, provide you with a list of health insurance choices you HAVE to choose from or the IRS jackbooted thugs will beat yo ass.

    So, has anyone actually recieved any actual HEALTH CARE via these websites? Cuz, I'm pretty sure that was the whole fucking point - right?

  • Calvin Coolidge||

    Well, reading about them has made me feel better for over two weeks now, so there is that.

  • PapayaSF||

    + 1 $50 bandaid

  • Sevo||

    "So, has anyone actually recieved any actual HEALTH CARE via these websites? Cuz, I'm pretty sure that was the whole fucking point - right?"

    There was a report yesterday that one guy in Delaware actually succeeded in buying insurance through DE's web site.
    As far as getting care, who knows? The options offered may mean he has to go to Ohio to find a qualifying MD.

  • Nephilium||

    I'm pretty sure no one can receive health care through any website. Health insurance on the other hand...

  • Copernicus||

    I can't see how anyone can be expected to enroll online.

    The complete incompetence shown here compromises any confidence a user can have that the enrollment is secure and/or the user won't be scammed/hacked.

    It seems a very valid defense for anyone not enrolling would be to simply say: "I'm not entering any personal data into that piece of shit".

  • #||

    This is the reason why I haven't tried to set up an account out of curiousity.

    I'm not putting my SS# in there even if i make up a fake address.

  • SugarFree||

    Just shut them off to work on them. Could any user really tell the difference at this point?

  • Jordan||

    And have the God Emperor display weakness? SEDITION! TREASON!

  • SugarFree||

    The Emperor's New Website... who would dare say they weren't working? Surely no one who counts would say that.

  • Lord Humungus||

    Last night I was playing an online FPS (Rising Storm) and during a combat lull a number of players were ripping on the cost and problems of the exchanges. Surprised me since it came out of the blue.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    This web presence only cost six hundred million in taxpayer dollars, so what did you expect? You get what you pay for.

  • db||

    I have always hated it when people say "on accident." It sounds so second grade.

  • General Butt Naked||

    Oooh, I fucking hate that as well.

    Chaps my goddamn ass.

  • Fluffy||

    This reminds me of that Ayn Rand novel where the government tries to build a software application by committee and bureaucratic infighting makes it a complete kludge and failure, and meanwhile a red-haired genius programmer who refuses to work on committees builds a flawlessly operating system in his basement by writing code in Notepad.

    Remember that one?

    That was a good one.

    I really liked the part where the hero dynamited the server farm.

  • SugarFree||

    If Dinosaur Erotica can make money, an Ayn Rand pastiche should do well.

  • Sevo||

    Oh, yes, that was from her Techno Period!

  • SweatingGin||

    Listen, it's vi, and my hair isn't red.

  • ||

    I have red hair, and I used to write C code in vi!

  • Calvin Coolidge||

    I liked the one where the hero finds a guitar from Ancient times, and he takes it to the priests, and they are all, like, "just think about the average, what use have THEY for you", and then he has a dream where...

  • The Late P Brooks||

    The states would be probing these operations themselves, and they'd be banding together to sue.

    The SEC would be spending millions investigating them.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    This morning, I was assured by some expert being interviewed by the bloombergers that this is a big, complicated system, and we should expect a few hiccups. He must have just forgotten to mention the extensive stress testing they did before releasing it into the wild.

  • Adam330||

    "few hiccups" = completely unable to perform its basic function.

  • ||

    Who regulates the regulators?

  • Eric Bana||

    I think it's important to remember:

    1) Obamacare isn't going to add a dime to the deficit.

    2) Obamacare will let you keep your health plan unchanged if you like it.

    3) Obamacare is going to bend the cost curve of health insurance AND overall healthcare spending down.

    How could anybody express even the slightest reservation about it?

    /immense sarcasm

    Why does nobody ask Carney and Obama questions about these things EVERY F***ING DAY in addition to the mess of the exchanges?

  • Ken Shultz||

    Sedition!

  • GILMORE||

    You forgot how "Obamacare is Good for the Poors and the Womens and the Oldies which is why the Teathuglicons and the Kochs want it and you to die"

    I've heard this perhaps a half dozen times. Most recently in comments on a CollegeHumor video mocking attempts to block Obamacare as 'childish'. (partisan-humor tends to go deep-bottom-of-the-barrel ASAP. I was hoping maybe they'd go full, "they's racist too!" in order to hit all the right notes)

  • Ayn Random Variation||

    My female co-worker likes OC because of breast cancer. or something.

    I'm reminded every day that we are all doomed.

  • Biden's Scroteplugs||

    oddly enough the CFPB isn't investigating this egregious bait and switch.

  • Juice||

    nice

  • SweatingGin||

    1) Obamacare isn't going to add a dime to the deficit.


    over the first 10 years.

    And it accomplished this by starting the taxes and fees up front (in '10, I believe, or shortly after), but not going into force until '13-'14.

    So, actually, by the original estimate, only 7 more years 'til the costs for it go kaboom. Somehow I think it will be sooner, though, like when the death spirals start in the winter.

  • PapayaSF||

    You forgot "Every family will save $2500 a year on premiums."

  • GILMORE||

    "Instead, “the call agents were reading from a script that was given to them by mistake.”"

    "These aren't the droids you're looking for..."

    (waves hand)

    Hold on a goddamn minute - is it the new 'best practice policy', written in the Good-Government Operations Handbook, to 'cover up' any incident that suggests your administration is slightly incompetent or stupid with yet another 'incident' that suggests your administration is really only *very slightly less* incompetent or stupid??

    Is it the 'humanizing'-defense strategy? (where in effort to avoid punishment for a grievous wrongdoing, it is recast as the product of 'understandable flaws' which, you know, 'can happen to anybody!'). Jimmy didn't mean to strangle the neighbors cat, your honor! He doesn't know his own strength! He's a simple boy! (meanwhile jimmy is stabbing his lawyer with a broken pencil)

    I don't know what the fuck it is, but the idea that "agents were given the *wrong* script"... a pre-prepared script where they explain "we lost all yer passwords"??... what, *just in case?*... I mean, is there supposed to be a script department working overtime on various contingency scripts *just in case* some unknown further vast incompetence/disaster occurs? Good thing they didn't hand them the "the system is down because of the ongoing Russian Nuclear Attack" script. Whoops!

  • Bardas Phocas||

    You have to cover all your bases.
    "Gerald Ford dead today. Eaten by wolves"
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkhwiuRbOEE

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Why does nobody ask Carney and Obama questions about these things EVERY F***ING DAY in addition to the mess of the exchanges?

    *clears throat melodramatically*

    What difference, at this point, does it make?

  • PACW||

    Thank you. One of the many things that has angered me lately is the willingness of the general public to let anything that happened last week or earlier to be put in the ancient history pile. (While of course still using 'WMD' and 'Mission Accomplished' as witty and cutting punchlines)

  • Alien Invader||

    Let's harp on this bullshit for the rest of ever. Might as well.

    Because in the long run, it's not going to kill ObamaCare, we're stuck with it, it's going to kill the US medical system (3rd world here we come), and it's going to hamstring the economy too, all in one move.

    The software problems are just minor details. But at least it gives us something for target practice.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    The software problems are just minor details. But at least it gives us something for target practice.

    People who cannot comprehend the distinction between health INSURANCE and health CARE are immune to any contrary viewpoints, no matter how rational or clearly stated.

  • Alien Invader||

    No argument there.

    My point is, this sniping is pointless. It's not going to fix the problem, which is the fact that we're stuck with this ***fricken*** boat anchor chained to all our necks.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    "They did maintenance on the website recently and deleted all the passwords, so they needed resetting,"

    They had to destroy the database to save it.

  • Ayn Random Variation||

    I got a letter from my employer re: OC, and they actually used the term "penalty tax" in the letter.

    So the Administration has come up with this newspeak term so it can be called either a penalty or a tax depending on the argument they're using to justify it's legality?

  • ||

    I just want to remind everyone here not to stop running LOIC.
    We don't want to be lulled into a false sense of security.

  • Number 2||

    Remember - all the criticism of the PPACA are lies and exaggerations!

  • Number 2||

    Hey.

    I was watching this Godawful video about Obamacare put out by the Kaiser Foundation,
    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=JZkk6ueZt-U
    and at about the 6:49 mark they announce that even after Obamacare is fully implemented, about 30 million Americans will remain uncovered.

    Wasn't the entire purpose of this law to cover "all Americans?" Weren't there 45 million uncovered Americans who were in urgent need of coverage? Any after all this, we still will have 30 million uncovered? Really?

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