Insurers Say Obamacare Website Problems Remain

Whitehouse.govWhitehouse.govOver the weekend, the Obama administration said that as many as 15,000 Obamacare sign ups never actually made it all the way to health insurers. As J.D. Tuccille noted yesterday, these were people who had made it all the way through the website gauntlet during the first two months, when the system was practically impenetrable.

The administration isn’t exactly eager to focus on the fact that thousands of people’s applications simply got lost in the shuffle. But it is trying to highlight the improvements it says it has made to the system. When the exchanges launched in October, roughly 10 percent of completed sign-ups got lost. Now the administration says that figure is less than 1 percent.

That’s an improvement, of course. But if the administration is still expecting to enroll millions of people in private coverage through the law, a 1 percent error rate will still leave a non-trivial number of individuals lost in transmission.

Missing files aren’t the only problem to plague the data transfer process either. Many of the applications are being transmitted, but with inaccurate data. Insurance industry sources tell The New York Times that those problems still remain—and that the administration is overstating the progress that’s been made:

Insurers said that they had found many discrepancies and errors and that the government was overstating the improvements in HealthCare.gov.

In some instances, they said, the federal government reported that the home address for a new policyholder was outside an insurer’s service area. In other cases, a child was listed as the main subscriber — the person responsible for paying premiums — and parents were listed as dependents.

In some cases, children were enrolled in a policy by the federal government and parents were left off, or vice versa. In other cases, the government mixed up the members of a family: A child or spouse was listed two or three times in the same application in late November. Such errors can have financial implications, increasing the amount of premiums that a family is required to pay.

While some of the problems were discovered in the last few days, insurers said that they had previously reported many of the errors to the “help desk” at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and that the problems remained unresolved.

 The help desk doesn't sound all that helpful. 

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  • Almanian!||

    What?! This is UNpossible! UN. Possible!

  • ||

    I don't know if I'm the only programmer seeing this, but a bunch of the problems they're listing scream "never or only the most minimally tested". The whole rollout stinks of "here's the app, and the only testing that's been done has been devs making sure that the most basic and simple use goes through when they test it once". And that's not taking the back-end integration into consideration at all.

  • Almanian!||

    Yeah, this. I did programming and testing back in the day, and this stuff doesn't appear to meet some of the most-basic criteria for "functional" SW.

    Shocker! It's the government!

  • Rasilio||

    As a professional QA Engineer I have to say I am thankful I never worked on that project. It is clear that they never tested much of anything and I suspect the QA's on the project were screaming their heads off that the thing was never tested at all but they were just ignored

  • ||

    I doubt there was even a QA department involved. I've worked for startups and small companies where there wasn't an official QA staff, and as a dev you had to do extensive testing on your own or these kinds of problems would inevitably crop up. This reeks of zero QA.

  • R C Dean||

    Looks to me like they took the marketing demo/mockup site and went live with it.

  • andarm16||

    This story, minus the part where there was a functional 1.0 to fall back on is probably the story of Obamacare. They probably spent vast amounts of time on the user interface, and making everything work on the latest whizbang no sql database (most likely one that was the newest fad at the start of the project, but has since faded into obscurity), that there was no money or time to test the serious stuff.

  • Almanian!||

    When the exchanges launched in October, roughly 10 percent of completed sign-ups GM's new-car orders got lost. Now the administration GM says that figure is less than 1 percent.

    Think about it....if ANY private company had this kind of issue....

    What a bunch of fucktards. "Close enough for government work!" And they're not even kidding...

  • The Other Kevin||

    No, you're not the only one. Part of my job was to write a registration system for schools. Parents register their kids on a web site instead of coming to school to fill out paperwork. We had problems where less than 1% of the forms were not saved properly, and had our asses handed to us.

  • Almanian!||

    Exhibit A, ladies and gentlemen.

  • Sevo||

    ..."In some instances, they said, the federal government reported that the home address for a new policyholder was outside an insurer’s service area. In other cases, a child was listed as the main subscriber — the person responsible for paying premiums — and parents were listed as dependents."...

    It's the *government*, for pete's sake! What do you expect?

  • wareagle||

    It's the *government*, for pete's sake! What do you expect?

    anyone who says there were expecting different is either delusional or very tired from all that water-carrying. Possibly both.

  • Fluffy||

    In some cases, children were enrolled in a policy by the federal government and parents were left off

    I bet that's built right into the application, and is not an error. So the insurers better get used to getting those.

    When I filled out the Vermont version of the app to see what the prices were, it offered each family member INDIVIDUAL options, as well as the family option.

    If I wasn't married, it would have been worth my while to buy the SCHIP insurance they offered my kid, and switch my employer plan to individual only. I can't pull that trick because I would need to cover my wife, too. But there are lots of single parents in the world, right?

    And if I saw that, that means that X thousand other people will see it. And will apply for it.

  • Adam330||

    Plenty of employers will wise up to this, and begin offering family plans that get more expensive as you add additional family members. That will incent employees to take options subsidized by others (i.e. SCHIP) when available to them.

  • JWatts||

    You know what's frakkin hilarious. I just looked at my calendar. It's 12/17, which means it's just past the original final deadline for enrollment for the first of the year.

    The extension never meant anything, because insurers are going to be so lightly staffed after this week that nothings going to be accomplished. The fact that in just the last few days they've released another 'extension' is just pure desperation. And the part about 'asking' health insurers to take a partial payment is just ridiculous.

    Do they really expect people who can't manage to scrape up the first months payment to be able to afford the next 11 months worth of payments? Of course not. What the administration desperately wants is any kind of good news to hang their hopes on. So if they can point to a surge of sign ups in the last few days of the year, they can use that to project even more sign up in later months.

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