This is Naked Capitalism fundraising week. 702 donors have already invested in our efforts to shed light on the dark and seamy corners of finance. Join us and participate via our Tip Jar or another credit card portal, WePay in the right column, or read about why we’re doing this fundraiser and other ways to donate, such as by check, as well as our current goal, on our kickoff post. And read about our current target here.
By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
Let’s dispose immediately of the administration’s canard that the Federal Exchange’s problems were caused a happy excess of visitors all trying to log in at once; I posted on my encounter with the dreaded security questions bug 38 minutes after the Exchange launched at midnight, October 1. ObamaCare wasn’t marketed like Black Friday, so if a system can’t handle the load at 22 minutes before one in the morning, it can’t handle any load and can’t even have been seriously tested. And let’s not worry about the administration’s transparent attempt to distract us with hit counts from the only metric that really matters: Sign-ups; estimates there range from ~51K at the top to 5K at the bottom; either way, not enough for Obama’s PR guys even to try to fake making Obama look good. Or for HHS to release the official figures.
Tonight, I’ll show how some of ObamaCare’s fundamental, systemic problems are slowly revealing themselves by looking at this hellish description of one
consumer’s citizen’s log-in session (hat tip, alert reader johm). I’ll mark the spots I’m going to dig deeper like this:  here.) As you will see, “hellish” is not too strong a word.* Note that johm made multiple attempts, so even though HHS has been improving the system, serious flaws remain; and almost none of the systemic flaws I’m going to point out have been fixed.
I have been attempting to navigate the federal exchange since it opened on October 1st.
Initially, nothing worked. As you noted [here],  the security questions didn’t open.
I eventually was able to open an account. However, it was difficult to login– I kept getting an error message and was locked out after many tries.
I then attempted to change my password hoping to get back in that way. I clicked on the “forgot my password” link and was forwarded a link to click on to verify my password. The link never worked.
 I finally ended up creating a new account, and was successful.
Finally, I typed in my data.  When I got to the “verify identity” page, I got the Experian message as a pop-up. The pop-up essentially said that the exchange could not make a connection to Experian and gave me a phone number at Experian that I should call.
I eventually called Experian, and as I figured, I was put on hold and then told to call back because they were too busy. I was at my son’s house when I called and he was watching a football game giving his play by play. I told him to be quiet as I was verifying my identity with the government. Both my son and his friends gave me a big WTF?
Undeterred, I got back in to my exchange account and was told to continue inputing data. I did that.
If you have ever gone to a credit agency to get a credit report, the agency will ask you questions such as “do you have one of the following credit cards?” or “have you lived at one of the following addressed?”, etc.
 Apparently, the problem with verifying my identity on the exchanges was that the address I inputed, **** 6th Place Southeast, was listed with Experian as ****6th PL SE, and this caused the fail with my identity verification.
The exchange now insists that my identity be verified by either  mailing copies or faxing certain paper documents–driver’s license, passport, deed to the house, etc. I am, again, essentially locked out.
Sorry I didnt save a screenshot, but that’s my tale. Keep digging and you will find someone who had a similar experience to mine and did save it.
Readers, if any of you have failure stories — or success stories! — please leave them in comments. (And if you’ve got screen dumps, say so and I’ll contact you, assuming your email address is valid.)
So, to the systemic problems:
 The security question drop down #FAIL. I’m certainly not the only person to experience this; but as johm indicates, this frontend seems to have been fixed.
 Issues with multiple accounts. So johm creates one account, which doesn’t work, and then a second one, which seems to. Alas, the backend seems to be corrupting account information, so who knows which account is the right one? Bloomberg:
Each night, healthcare.gov is supposed to send a batch of new enrollments to the insurers. Called “834 files,” the data have long been an industry standard in the private sector.
The information is a new responsibility for the federal exchanges, though, according to [Dan] Schuyler, a director at Leavitt Partners, a Salt Lake City-based health-care consultant. With the government site, some of the electronic files are being transfered with missing data or are corrupted to the point where they can’t be opened, [Robert] Laszewski and Schuyler said in telephone interviews.
To fix the files, insurers have to go through them by hand. When thousands of people sign up, as the U.S. is hoping will happen before mid-December, it may create a large backup, the two consultants said.
Worse, the backend connection between account information stored on the Federal Exchanges and account information stored at the insurance companies seems to be utterly borked:
Things are worse behind the curtain than in front of it.
Here is one example from a carrier–and I have received numerous reports from many other carriers with exactly the same problem. One carrier exec told me that yesterday they got 7 transactions for 1 person – 4 enrollments and 3 cancellations.
For some reason the system is enrolling, unenrolling, enrolling again, and so forth the same person. This has been going on for a few days for many of the enrollments being sent to the health plans. It has got on to the point that the health plans worry some of these very few enrollments really don’t exist.
(Ha ha. If I were back in Philly, and these were signatures to get a candidate on the ballot instead of accounts, I’d make sure there weren’t any names like Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck in the enrollment data.)
The reconciliation system, that reconciles enrollment between the feds and the health plans, is not working and hasn’t even been tested yet.
Oh great. And we launched before that was done? Before the Federal data and the insurance data could be synched? Lordy.
The bottom line here is that even if you think you have an account and/or are enrolled, the Federal Exchange might not think either of those things. Or, worse, you may think you have one account, and the Federal Exchange might think you have another.
 Privatized identity verification with Experian’s data. Here, I’ll just note that the decision to privatize identity verification came from the White House.
 Inconsistent data at Experian. This is an utterly critical issue. Again, the poster says:
[T]he address I inputed, **** 6th Place Southeast, was listed with Experian as ****6th PL SE, and this caused the fail with my identity verification.
Of course, everybody knows that 20% of Americans have an error on their credit report, that the credit reporting agencies make it very difficult to fix them. But johm’s data wasn’t even in error; who, after all, is to say which of “6th Place Southeast” and “6th PL SE” is wrong? So it seems likely that the percentage of data from the Federal Exchange that needs to be reconciled by Experian simply because it’s inconsistent, though correct, may be a lot more than 20% of all enrollments. How many times have you written “St” for “St.” or “Street,” after all? And who knew that ObamaCare would turn into a mandate to force Experian’s
victims subjects to clean up Experian’s data for it, when Experian won’t do that on its own?
 Redundant data electronically and on paper. Experian can’t reconcile the data itself, so it asks johm to send paper verification:
The exchange now insists that my identity be verified by either mailing copies or faxing certain paper documents–driver’s license, passport, deed to the house, etc. I am, again, essentially locked out.
Never mind that this is an onerous requirement, a Kafka-esque bureaucratic requirement. Because look what happens: We now have three copies of johm’s account data running around. We’ve (1) got the data johm entered on the Exchange, stored there — and for two accounts, only one of which (but which?) is valid — and (2) the copy of the data that Experian received amd stored, which may be corrupt, and may also have been changed by the Experian operator, and (3) the paper version of the data. What the system needs to do is get all three of those in synch and keep them that way. What are the odds?
Let’s also remember that all these levels of #FAIL are for what should be the simplest process of all: Logging in to get an account. We haven’t even gotten to eligibility calculation and plan selection yet. Those are more complicated.
And, oh yeah: Why in the name of The God(dess)(e)(s) Of Your Choice, If Any, did the administration make it a requirement to set up an account before comparing plans?** Buying health insurance on the exchanges was supposed to be like buying a flat screen TV, said Obama; but does Best Buy force you to set up an account before searching their home electronics section? Or Amazon? They’d be daft if they did, because they want you making a decision to purchase; customer identity can be captured at the point of sale. And the Federal Exchanges should to the same thing for the same reason.***
Of course, single payer is rugged, robust, proven, and none of this nonsense would be happen. I just can’t imagine why the Democrats when for
HeritageCare RomneyCare ObamaCare instead.
NOTE * I’ve received other accounts in mail similar to this one; AmericaBlog published a similar epic #FAIL here; there is, in fact, a fast-developing entire genre of ObamaCare horror stories, complete with transcripts and screen dumps (“Day 10: I turn to Kenny for help”). In an example of success, an aspiring computer engineer who’d been buying insurance for two years took an hour. Obviously, the process is nothing like buying a flat-screen TV.
NOTE ** This would make sense for a political campaign, since account information like name, email, and phone are required for fundraising and GOTV; they are the crown jewels of intellectual property for any shop. Perhaps that’s why putting registration first made sense to whoever reviewed this thing for the White House. There’s also the issue that given what we read in the papers about NSA surveillance, some of us might think it’s a very good idea to give the Feds as little information about anything as possible. For myself, I’d far rather compare products anonymously (or as anonymously as possible), and then check in only for purchase, just like at Amazon.
NOTE *** A change request to run the Marketplace more like a store — shopping first, identity after plan selection — wouldn’t be the end of the world; but it’s real work for an already overtaxed project team.