Time Running Out for Obamacare Fixes

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Shawn Thew / EPA

President Barack Obama responds to a question from the news media during a press conference in the briefing room of the White House in Washington, Oct. 8, 2013

They have one month. If the officials running the new Affordable Care Act insurance exchanges cannot fix crippling computer glitches by then, the health law’s future could be imperiled, according to a former high-ranking health care official.

“By November—certainly the middle of November—the sites have to be able to handle major traffic for people to be able to set up accounts and purchase coverage,” says Joel Ario, who served as director of the Office of Health Insurance Exchanges at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) from August 2010 to September 2011.

Since the Oct. 1 launch of state-based insurance web sites where uninsured Americans can shop for new health coverage, the exchanges have been riddled with computer problems causing crashes and error messages. Administrators for both state-run exchanges and those being managed by the federal government have brushed off concerns that the glitches mean the health care law is fundamentally flawed. They point out that the open enrollment period that began this month lasts until March 31, 2014, and the earliest new coverage can begin is Jan. 1, 2014.

(MORE: Obamacare Chief Defends Rocky Start on The Daily Show)

But the longer it takes to repair problems with exchange web sites, the harder it may be to enroll Americans who want coverage. The Obama Administration and states have blamed early web site problems on overwhelming interest in the exchanges, saying the sites couldn’t handle the heavy traffic. But that interest that will only increase as a Dec. 15, 2013 deadline for purchasing a plan that starts Jan. 1 approaches.

“The more truncated that period is, the higher volume will be,” Ario says.

The most pressing problem for the Obama Administration is adding capacity and fixing bugs in healthcare.gov, the web site managing insurance enrollment for more than 30 states. Visitors to the site have endured long wait times, error messages and glitches impeding registration, which is necessary to see available insurance plans and prices. Some state exchange web sites, like Kentucky’s, that allow visitors to browse plans without establishing identity-specific accounts appear to have been better equipped to handle heavy traffic at this early stage.

“We did have the same sorts of issues on Tuesday [Oct. 1], but we were able to get them fixed faster,” says Gwenda Bond, a spokesperson for the Kentucky cabinet for health and family services, which oversees the state’s exchange. As of Monday, 1,527 Kentucky individuals and families had enrolled in new health plans, more than in most other states. Maryland’s health exchange, which has experienced major glitches, said just 326 people had enrolled as of Oct. 1. (The federal government and some states have so far declined to provide enrollment figures.)

(PHOTOS: Obamacare: Promise vs. Reality)

Ario cautions against condemning the health care exchanges based on early enrollment data, however, pointing out that few Americans may want to sign up and pay for coverage that doesn’t begin for three more months. Right now, he says, “The vast majority of people want to look at options and basically browse.” Enrollment en masse may not begin for weeks.

Aside from the risk that fewer people will get health coverage if web sites are not repaired soon, another long-term concern raised by the computer problems is the composition of the insurance pool. Says Ario, “The people who most need coverage will get it. They’ll be patient and they’ll work through the glitches. The people who don’t need it now will be less patient. The easier the enrollment, the better the chances of having a balanced insurance pool.”

Balancing the pool so that risk is spread among a diverse population, which will keep prices in check, depends on exchanges attracting young and healthy Americans who are typically cheap to insure. These people, who are not in need of major medical care right now, may give up on glitch-prone exchange web sites. Imagine a 20-something chided by his parents to get health coverage he might not think he needs and encountering error messages and delays signing up. This scenario, according to Ario, could go something like this. “Gee, Mom, I really tried and I waited on that site for an hour, but I couldn’t do it.”

If the coverage plans sold through the Obamacare exchanges are stacked with sicker and older Americans, insurers will have to raise prices for 2015 plans. If people balk at those premiums, the exchange system itself could be in danger.

VIDEO: TIME Explains: The Obamacare Exchange Marketplace

462 comments
Juan'tAjob
Juan'tAjob

Only the highest risk and lowest income people will persevere through the government bureaucracy, that is Obamacare.  All of those who were already happy with their insurance are the ones who will be in total shock.  The marginally full-time employed will begin seeing 35 hour workdays and unaffordable premiums.

Just imagine how much we would have saved had the Federal Government opted to subsidize health care for all eligible Americans without health care, instead of turning the whole system on it's ear!  The 30 million figure could have been whittled down--a LOT--by trimming away illegal aliens, who have no legal right to government assistance.  Let's say, the real number of uninsured Americans is 20 million.  Offer them premiums, based on affordability, and pay the rest.  I just can't believe that would cost $1.7 Trillion over ten years...I just can't...

RichyBocaz
RichyBocaz

Not all Americans, just US Citizens. America is a continent not just one country.

valentine.godoflove
valentine.godoflove

IN CAPS SO SENIORS MAY READ....I CARE ABOUT THE WEAK AND THE OPPRESSED- KNIGHT TEMPLAR

THIS OBAMA PIECE OF CRAP......2000 PAGES OF INSTRUCTION.....A SUPREME COURT JUDGE ......"THREATENED" CHICAGO STYLE  AND VIOLATED THE CONSTITUTION .....BY RULING.......WE ARE FORCED TO BUY....SOMETHING....OBAMACARE...BY LAW.....OR ABUSED BY THE IRS ....IF YOU DON'T,,,,,,,,,HOW WOULD YOU LIKE IT IF YOU WERE FORCED TO BUY A CANDYBAR THAT TASTED LIKE CRAP.....AND THAT IS OBAMACARE......UN-AFFORDABLE HEALTCARE......

OBAMA IS DESTROYING THE COUNTRY.....AND MY FELLOW CITIZENS SEEM TOO STUPID TO SEE WHAT IS GOING ON AROUND THEM.....AND WHO IS HANDLING THE PUPPET STRINGS ON THE PUPPET OBAMA?.......THE LEFTWING WEALTHY OWNER OF THE GRAND HYATT CHICAGO.?....I SAW A SNIPPET IN 2008.....THEN THEY CUT IT OFF ON TV....

WHO ELSE?......

VALENTINE, COMEDIAN, LOL;;


Hudymae
Hudymae

The most interesting thing about many of these comments is you don't talk about people, just computer glitches. There is a missing part to this story in many of the commenters minds, and it's people. They don't like people, they hate people, so they talk about glitches not about how many people in this country need healthcare. this isn't about computers it's about people and their families that are dyeing because of no healthcare. And in their selfishness they don't see the people in the emergency rooms, forcing hospital to close down. I guess there is so little empathy around since the Tea Party, the haters who want but don't want anyone else to have anything.  

Fastgirl
Fastgirl

What a mess. Customers deserve better than this. If Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Amason had started out like this they wouldn't be in business today. To add insult to injury the customers had to pay to the tune of a little over half a billion dollars to be treated like this.

AlanE.Hawkins
AlanE.Hawkins

medicare works, medicaid works, unemployement works, post office works, IRS works, so what exactly is your proof that nothing works in the govt. The glitches are something you will see in IT no matter what. You can't expect them to go live and not have issues. I've worked in fortune 100 IT companies for 20 years and have yet to see a piece of code go out the door and work perfectly. Also you people do realize the GOP is actively trying to stop it through any means, like the shutdown? the fake fillibuster? did you also know many states have passed laws trying to obstruct the implementation of the ACA?

"four states (Georgia, Maine, Missouri and Ohio) that bar navigators from helping people compare the benefits of different health plans, as required by the Affordable Care Act." .... "also cites 10 states (Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin and Utah) where anti-Obamacare statutes could hobble private citizens’ efforts to help each other find coverage." 

The ACA is not govt taking over your health care, it's about creating an environment that allows everyone to be able to afford health care. It limits how much profit insurance companies can make off of you, gives young people the ability to stay on their parents insurance, provides a central area to find this affordable coverage and increased the coverage we all get with required exams, preventative care etc. 


So really if your only going to spew hatred and non-facts, why don't you go live on a island in the carribean and you won't have to worry about the US Govt, because right now your not acting like a reasonable citizen but a blowhard braggert who only cares for himself.

Alpha_Zed
Alpha_Zed

This is not about a Glitch! Nothing this government does works, nothing! Look at where we are today, 17 Trillion and counting. They have your money=your life, now your willing to give your liberties and freedoms and you all act like this is just another government necessity. We need to get government out of our lives not into our bodies.This is the last program the government needs to be involved in! Your grandchildren will curse this program and you for allowing it! Bad laws can be corrected!

Alpha_Zed
Alpha_Zed

Abomi-nation: Obama-nation: 15% might need it but 85% don't want it. It's not the business of this government to force feed the American people a socialized program of health care. More money going to those who can not control spending now. R e p e a l the S T I N K I N G - P R O G R A M! Return control of personal property to the citizens. My body is mine and is not subject to the illegal unconstitutional man made law! Driving might be a privilege but my health care is my natural R I G H T !!!

NealSears
NealSears

3 years in the making and a failure. But then when hasn't the idiotic moron Obama failed?

Right
Right

The Obama administration followed a familiar pattern:  lie first, then deflect.  

Their first explanation for the system-wide malfunctions was that the website was simply overwhelmed by super-happy eager consumers clamoring to get covered.  That the system didn't work was "good news", Katherine Sebelius assured us.  

But, as anyone who has ever developed a Web application can tell you, the party line simply didn't make sense.  Overwhelmed servers simply don't respond.  They don't make logic errors like presenting empty drop-down menus, telling users they've entered the same security answer twice when they haven't, or losing login credentials.  These are symptoms of a flawed design and a poorly-managed implementation.

Now that we're in week 2 of the sign-up debacle, the administration is no longer trying to push the line that the system is overloaded, because the system malfunctions even at 2 am, when most folks are presumably done clamoring for the People's Glorious Revolutionary Health Care System.  Now the administration is in deflection mode, claiming that they simply don't have the foggiest idea how many people have signed up.  Apparently, when this $90 million system was built, someone forgot to write the one-line query that counts the number of rows in the "enrollees" table.  No, they'll have to wait at least a couple of months before they can "get the data".  Whaddaya suppose the odds are that we'd be hearing crickets chirping if the enrollment numbers were spectacular?  We'd be hearing it 24/7 on every news outlet, and everyone in the administration would be making the cable talk-show rounds.

PharmGrl
PharmGrl

Dirty little Obamacare secret: the individual mandate is a toothless sham. ACA section 1501(g)(2) prohibits IRS from using ANY means other than withholding from tax refunds to collect the individual mandate tax. So if you file a new W4 at work and have zero withheld for taxes, IRS can't collect. Worst that can happen is a nasty letter. First clue Democrats never intended for ACA to work. ACA is intended to drive private premiums into the stratosphere, make us scream for single payer.

JimBoss
JimBoss

Can't log in at the moment to healthcare.gov ... 

Gateway TimeoutThe proxy server did not receive a timely response from the upstream server.

Reference #1.7c611f45.1381366173.8b114e3

RussMartin
RussMartin

This is a stupid story. There are probably a hundred fixes for this, and if need be, they could extend the enrollment period and adjust the premiums slightly.  Obamacare will have it's rollout problems like everything else, but they will be fixed and the program fine tuned. 

HazeAndDrizzle
HazeAndDrizzle

These articles are just plain lies that anybody can verify. The WA State site is doing just fine. I just tried getting quotes for Texas, the worst State in the nation. Absolutely no problem. So where are all these dead websites? Why is the media peddling verifiable lies.

mkurk101
mkurk101

Crazy.  We are 17 trillian dollars in debt>  Who is going to fund this?  Most of you are probably 25 and live with your parents>  Maybe make 25 grand a year.  Funny thing is you are going to be paying the lions share and might go to the doctor once a year> lol

MaryMitch
MaryMitch

@valentine.godoflove You may care about seniors, who get coverage via Medicare. But you obviously don't care about the low income people who will be able to get affordable coverage, the people with pre-existing conditions who will be able to get affordable coverage, and the people who have maxed out their coverage and will be able to keep affordable coverage.  

Speaking of coverage, I think you need to go back on your meds.

MaryMitch
MaryMitch

@Fastgirl Any new system will have glitches. Believe me, I developed systems for 30+ years, and they all have problems at first, no matter how hard you prepare.  You just can't test everything. If you haven't tried it today, do so, and I think you'll see an improvement from last week.

Hudymae
Hudymae

@Fastgirl Customers also need the healthcare. And when you don't have it and will get it, you don't complain since you have been complaining for years to get it. Now they can get it, and you're talking about Apple, Google, and Amazon who steal your information and use you for marketing. Give it a break. You don't like ACA so you'll say anything stupid to make some dumb point that has nothing to do with healthcare.

Hudymae
Hudymae

@Alpha_Zed  funny you say this, because here in rural PA everyone needs and will get it. I'm sure you never knew or thought so many people would need healthcare and those people aren't going to give it up so they can die of diseases cause you don't like the government. I'd rather the government was involved then those stupid uncaring insurance companies. Obvious you have healthcare do you don't care about those that don't. But I don't even think there is a course you can take on empathy. And hatred can be learned at home.

pattia2u
pattia2u

@Alpha_Zed Obviously you are not a woman.  Have you been paying attention to how the Republicans in many states are telling women what to do regarding their healthcare?  If so, you should be complaining about that.  Expecting people to sign up for health insurance is not a bad thing at all.  Unless you want people to continue to use the ER as their doctor...or worse yet just get sick and die because they have zero way of getting healthcare.

MaryMitch
MaryMitch

@Alpha_Zed It is NOT illegal. It is NOT unconstitutional. It is giving people access to affordable insurance. 

Hudymae
Hudymae

@NealSears you know the Repubs could have worked on this with the Pres, but as usual they only tried to obstruct. I can now have healthcare, but of course that wouldn't even interest someone without empathy for others. If you want insurance companies to rip you off go for it.  But when they turn you or your wife down for a stupid precondition you go and fight them. Obvious you have and don't want anyone else too.

DevanGriffith
DevanGriffith

@RussMartin It seems all these conservatives forgot that its their lazy, problem-wanting governors that made the federal government create exchanges for them.  If their politicians were proactive, all of this would be running smoothly.  

NealSears
NealSears

@RussMartin ROFLMAO. Sign up quickly as meds are available after your $10,000.00 deductible!

Right
Right

@RussMartin That's a ludicrous statement.  Everything doesn't flat-out fail when rolled out.  If GM rolled out a new automobile that failed to start and the wheels fell off, people wouldn't say those are just typical new-product "rollout problems".  This thing is a fiasco.  People can't even create accounts.  It's not like the system works overall but just has a few annoying bugs...

JimBoss
JimBoss

@RussMartin Challenger experienced a glitch, Columbia experienced a glitch, ... we shouldn't assume it is failed because of glitches ... but it is equally ignorant to assume it is successful.

JimBoss
JimBoss

@HazeAndDrizzle I can't login to Healthcare.gov, and haven't been able to for several hours.  

Hudymae
Hudymae

@mkurk101 I guess you don't read. We pay for it, it's not funded. But that is what you'd like to think so you can be mad about it. I just hope you don't need a doctor for hatred because I don't think there is a cure for that one.

RedistributorInChief
RedistributorInChief

Why should I have to pay for others' poor health choices?  And why should our nation go beyond $17T in debt, wasting $1B/day on interest, to hand out money to these burdens of society?  It's called personal responsibility.

Fastgirl
Fastgirl

This goes beyond "glitches ". Not everything new to the market place has glitches as you like to call them. Stop making excuses for an ill conceived, poorly planned, and disasterously implemented site.

Fastgirl
Fastgirl

You are an Obama worshipper and love OBAMACARE so you will say anything stupid to try and support your argument. Just because someone needs a product or service doesn't mean they should be subjected to what the customers of OBAMACARE have been subjected to over the past few weeks. Your attempts to make excuses or to justify what is going is beyond pathetic.

Alpha_Zed
Alpha_Zed

Maybe you could look for a job... That has health insurance or one that pays money you could buy insurance. And by the way there are many people that are homeless should we all be forced join a homecare program so they have a place to live, or a foodcare program so they all have something to eat? And what about short people or fat people is it not unfair to just turn your back on their problems and only look at yours? Selfishness is a learned defect, probably starts with poor home training.

Alpha_Zed
Alpha_Zed

I would rather the insurance companies were forced to accept all people and conditions at Afforable rates than the Stupid uncaring government get involved. Go ahead with your logic and play it out for your grandchildren. They will live in a world controled completely by government but that's okay,atleast they have life or a form of it. Live,work,pay your government and die. But we're Healthy at least physically. Go ahead trade a little more of your liberty for a little more safety!

ams0d4
ams0d4

@pattia2u @Alpha_Zed I guarantee you those people won't be able to pay the 12500 deductable per family plus the premiums.  God help those with a sick kid.  This insurance is crap and a cruel joke thought up by that thoughtless SOB in the W.H.  I'm an R.N. who works for a large Chicago hospital who pretty much does not work anymore because of low censusing at my hospital along with many of my fellow R.N.'s NO PATIENTS!  People are scarred. This bill is truly to destroy the middle-class.

Alpha_Zed
Alpha_Zed

Oh well if it's giving them access to health insurance then that makes it okay. What a bunch of crap, it's not about emotions and helping the poor or uninsured. If it was a really good idea we would do it voluntarily you wouldn't have to force us by threat of the IRS, it's socialism plan and simple. Let's just all share everything equally then everything will be ok, no more poor or uninsured, maybe we could hold hands and sing a little tune as workers unite. Wrong time wrong country MaryMitch!

Hudymae
Hudymae

@JimBoss @RussMartin Well I guess you know what assuming does, absolutely nothing. And I don't care how many glitches it has as long as I can have healthcare, but then why would you think of anyone else, but yourself.

bdyftns
bdyftns

@RedistributorInChief  Why should my taxes go toward educating other people's children when most of the country doesn't have children. Why do my property taxes keep going up every time they build a new school? Simply answer. It's the right thing to do.

Fastgirl
Fastgirl

Obama's incompetence goes way beyond "glitches " Customers don't deserve to be treated like this. Apparently you think it is ok to do so.

bdyftns
bdyftns

@Fastgirl Seriously? Do you remember the first version of Microsoft Windows and every version that came out after? They all had 'glitches' , just like iphones when they came out...but they fixed them.  You have plenty of time to sign up. And if you're not signing up quit complaining.

Fastgirl
Fastgirl

@pattia2u @Fastgirl The American taxypayers had to foot the bill of almost half a billion dollars for this disaster by Obama. To add insult to injury Obama gave the job of building HealthCare.gov to a CGI Group Inc, a Canadian contractor. It is not like we don't have millions out of work that could have used a job and the end product would have been much better. Unlike you I don't support treating customers, any customer, particularly those that have to have a product, to the disaster that Obama is subjecting them to. According to you it is OK to do so. Shameful.

pattia2u
pattia2u

@Fastgirl If you have insurance you should be happy that others will have the opportunity to also have insurance.    You should be happy...but then again...maybe not after reading your comments.

Fastgirl
Fastgirl

@pattia2u @Fastgirl Typical response from those on the left if they have run out of political arguments they attack the poster personally. A play right out of Alinsky's Rules for Radicals.

pattia2u
pattia2u

@Fastgirl Hudymae isn't an Obama worshiper.  She/he cares about people.  You should try that instead of being so hateful.

bdyftns
bdyftns

@Alpha_Zed If you lost your job you'd be the first in line to sign up for ACA with both hands out.

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