ObamaCare Rollout: What All the Log-In Problems Tell Us About More Serious (and Harder) Problems to Come

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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: [0] 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], [1] 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.

[2] I finally ended up creating a new account, and was successful.

Finally, I typed in my data. [3] 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.

[4] 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 [5] 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:

[1] 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.

[2] 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.

[3] Privatized identity verification with Experian’s data. Here, I’ll just note that the decision to privatize identity verification came from the White House.

[4] 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?

[5] 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.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Skeptic

    With the Obombercare system displaying its inadequacy and incompetence right before our very Public Eyes, why should we believe that the secret, no scrutiny please, NSA STASI systems should work any better? Or that their systems cannot be defeated very easily?

    Having worked with puters for bacon-on-the-table myself, I can only imagine the bungling, blowups (literally) and boobery plaguing the NSA systems. Back to the pen and paper, folks.

    Slogan for the New, Improved, Digital Age: BETTER LIVING THROUGH BUNGLING.

    1. Synoia

      “why should we believe that the secret, no scrutiny please, NSA STASI systems should work any better?”

      Becuase the purpose of the NSA system is to justify large budgets, not accurate resultes. For the large budget purpose the systems are very effective and work well.

      1. JGordon

        A very good example of the actual purpose of government operations being vastly different from the stated purpose for public consumption. Thank you.

        Another would be: “we’re printing all this money because unemployment is bad and we want to create jobs!” from Bernanke et al.

    2. JGordon

      I was reading Lambert’s article here and thought back to another article I just read yesterday about the apparent state of Obamacare as an IT project based solely on the javascript code readable in plain text to anyone with a web browser:


      Now there is some unfortunate political commentary in the article along with all the useful, interesting info, but perhaps it is justified in this case given the horrific state of this dog.

      1. Code Name D

        I have got to throw up some red flags here. In another article written by Mike Adams (the same person) he makes the following demands:

        1. “Arrest Big Pharma for [cut] experimentation on children, and so on.” – The use of the words “Big Pharma” (slang) and “so on” (unspecific) are warning signs of poor writing.

        2. Outlaw vaccines additives such as mercury, aluminum, MSG and formaldehyde. – The claim that these vaccine additives are dangerous has been debunked.

        3. Decriminalize alternative medicine. – He makes this demand twice.

        4. Abolish the FDA and restore free market medicine.

        5. Holt all Medicare and Medicate payments, use vouchers instead

        6. End the medical industry’s ability to invent factious diseases

        9. Allow the states to pass “medical freedom zones” which suspect all federal laws concerning health care.

        Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/038905_Obamacare_health_insurance_mandate.html#ixzz2hfRvxIrG

        Sorry, I got to call bull-shit on Natural News

        1. craazyboy

          I think the guy has some valid concerns, really. He’s just looking at the frontend java script and that’s just the tip of the iceberg in a large 3 tier architecture app. All the java script does is do some minimal field validation of data and display some error messages so you don’t need a round trip to the middle tier biz objects on the server just for that.

          I never knew any programmer that would let something that ugly off his development machine, let alone get to alpha testing. And this is post beta release? hahaha. Betcha they cashed the $600M check already too.

          Then JQuery, which is a programmer layer over browser java script functionality that makes everything cleaner and easier to use, has been stable for a couple years. About a year ago I started seeing lots of updated sites using it, and it seems to have a large programmer following already because you can get half way proficient in it in a few days and be an expert by the end of the month.

          I played around with it a year ago just for fun and wrote this little app to organize web programming info. It has JQuery specs and tutorials in it too.


        2. JGordon

          Yes, I get a lot of BS flags from natural news too. However this guy does state that IT specifically is his area of expertise, and he does make the point that literally anyone, i.e. you and me can open up the code and look at it ourselves. In this situation it’s hard to beliave that he’s making stuff up here.

  2. Thorstein

    All is going according to plan. At the end of this kabuki farce, the moral will be that government doesn’t work, and certainly that government-run health care cannot work. The American people will be told that we have all along had the very best health care system in the world, and that it’s time for the people to defund Medicare and entrust their lives and savèd fortunes to the kind private insurance companies, to Big Pharma and Big Expensive Medicine.

    1. casino implosion

      I’m more sanguine. I choose to believe that people will compare their obamacare experience with medicare and the boot will finally be put in the reagan era myth that the private sector is always better and more efficient.

      1. jrs

        oh but come now you know that most of the people making fun of the Obamacare exchanges being such a disaster are conservatives. Hahaha – government doesn’t work see (which I could probably live with if it started being consistently applied to the empire and the stasi and the police state etc. – as if that’s likely).

        I have to say that going through files, line by line, manually by hand, surpasses anything I have seen in IT ever. And no I haven’t seen steller reliability and even major websites that work upon releases and so on. Maybe it’s that I’ve worked at startups before and so on :).

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          People seem to have a very hard time understanding that it’s possible to critique ObamaCare from the left. That’s why careless or tendentious readers throw single payer advocates into the Teabagger bucket. It would be funny if it weren’t so sad.

        2. bh2

          This is why acceptance testing on a rollout is critical. Plainly that never happened here. Indeed, it doesn’t appear this software ever received any kind of functional testing at all, and likely didn’t even receive thorough unit testing. It doesn’t even qualify as an alpha release.

          Functional problems this wide and deep should never escape into the wild. Despite being labeled as a “glitch”, this is a complete system failure.

          Moreover, every (real) project manager knows compressing a schedule always increases cost, both in theory and in fact. Imagining 9 women can make a baby in 1 month is precisely the kind of delusional thinking which makes government horribly expensive whether it fails or succeeds.

          Issuing software releases based on an arbitrary calendar date set by the marketing department (aka “politicians”, in the public arena) rather than verified completion of milestones is a mistake. And it DOES, in fact, occur in commercial software. It’s still a mistake.

          Only governments and venture capitalists will continue to throw money at initial failure. The difference is that venture capitalists will eventually throw in the towel on failed efforts, whereas government will redouble taxpayer investment.

  3. AndyB

    An acquaintance of mine works for a large company that has recently dropped family members from HC coverage. He is divorced with 2 minior children. The divorce agreement requires him to pay alimony, child support and health care. His net disposable income, after alimony and child support, is approx $2000 per month. The cheapest plan he can buy (he’s not eligible under gross income guidelines for any subsidy) is $1200 per month, $10,000 deductible for his ex and kids. Since there is no way he can live on $800 per month, he’s totally screwed. I wonder how many like him are out there?

    1. R Foreman

      Screwed is a relative term. Some people get through their entire lives being covered by healthcare only 10% of that time. Other people live their entire lives in a mud hut and walk 10 miles to get water in a pail.

    2. jrs

      Maybe it would be cheaper if he just insured the kids and went without himself and paid the fine. I figure kids being young and immortal as the Obama admin would say can’t cost that much to insure. And there goes another adult whose healthcare isn’t covered even nominally, yea well it’s Obamacare, what did you expect?

    3. Dana

      You wonder how many people are out there who don’t know enough to go back to court for revised child/spousal support when their financial circumstances change? Not too many, and it’s got nothing to do with the ACA … let alone with the federal exchange website, which is the topic of this post.

  4. Dino Reno

    A word regarding actual ACA rates as they compare to what’s available in the open market for individual insurance. The Bronze Plan being offered in my state is comparable to what I’m paying for a catastrophic policy sold by the same carrier on an individual basis. There appears to be no group discount benefit.
    Making people buy these plans is a crime if they can’t afford it and the coverage stinks. I buy this type of “health” coverage as a form of bankruptcy insurance since the health coverage is negligible. The object of these policies is to keep people from seeking medical care while paying for health insurance that is useless.

    1. Carla

      You’re right on the money, Dino Reno.

      On the other hand, anybody who didn’t see this coming, was uhm, sorry to say, pretty much out to lunch.

      What did anyone expect from a Heritage Foundation, Mitt Romney endorsed and initiated “health care” plan?

  5. $$$

    You certainly were correct on the problem of using credit history.

    A bit off topic here: The front page, top story in the Providence Journal the other day was on funding the state’s exchanging once the Fed stops filling that trough in mid 2015. One of the solutions? (And probably the preferred one considering this thoroughly corrupt, overtaxed, littlest of states.) Taxing the health plan subscribers!

  6. linda amick

    My experience with the FEDERAL Healthcare Website:
    Prior to Oct 1, I set up a login and received a number of emails notifying me of upcoming openings for signup.
    By the time Oct 1 rolled around, I had misplaced my Login info. When I attempted to Login I clicked “Forgot my username”. I never received an email as the site promised even though I tried this several times over many days.
    Eventually I decided to create a new Login as I have two email accounts. I was allowed to create a new login with no problem.
    I have attempted to login using the new login at all hours of the day and night for the past week. I always receive an error saying my login is invalid. Early this week I called and was told to hold off for a month as fixes were being made and login problems would be resolved then.

  7. Richard Lyon

    The IT problems are just the beginning. Presumably those will eventually get fixed. There are growing indications that ObamaCare is the return of the HMOs. It is one thing for people who have no insurance coverage to get something. However, there are indications that people who presently have insurance coverage are being forced onto ACA exchanges with results that mean more limited service for more money.

    1. splashoil

      Obama’s biggest bork was not using the Medicare framework of universal coverage. After years of delay, this is it? This will not end well for Democrats or for anyone needing health care. “Eligibility Engine” my ass.

    2. splashoil

      Obama’s biggest bork was not using the Medicare framework of universal coverage. After years of delay, this is it? This will not end well for Democrats or for anyone needing health care. “Eligibility Engine” my ass.

    3. bruh1

      1. To me, the HMO, which only slightly more popular than Congress right now, is part of the real bigger story.

      2. The other aspect is that plans outside of the exchange are going to move that way with narrow networks.

      3. some others include

      a. Not really reducing the cost of insurance if you consider how many people don’t have the money to pay the premium even with a subsidy (harder to research)
      b. How many people will be dumped by their employer into the system (harder to research)

      4. Finally, the biggest, we are still heading towards a cost crisis in this country. The current private system isn’t sustainable. this is just extend and pretend

    4. Dana

      That’s true in my case, my individual policy is being cancelled because (presumably at some future date when I can get the website to function) I can buy insurance on the exchange. Will the premium be less than the $2700 per month I now pay for individual coverage? Will it cover anything at all? I have no idea …

      1. sellem

        I am likely in the same boat as you. Our family is covered by our state’s high risk pool. Despite the high premiums, we’ve grown to like the pool because service is great, lots of doctors belong to the pool’s PPO, and deductibles are reasonable. Unfortunately, the pool may get phased out on the assumption that it’s no longer needed, since the pool’s policyholders will be able to buy coverage on Exchanges. (The pool was established to serve as a last resort for people who’ve been denied private coverage.)

        So much for “You can keep your current insurance if you like it.”

    5. ian

      I know that I’m going to get shouted down for saying this, but for a long time I had Kaiser (here in CA) which is an HMO. I was basically happy with them – their “bedside manner” sucks, but I had no complaints about the actual treatments I got. Maybe it is possible to do an HMO reasonably well.

      1. LifelongLib

        Years ago when I lived with my parents I was on their Group Health (Seattle) plan. Never had any complaints about it either. In fact our doctor was our next door neighbor, and I remember him saying that when he first started at GH he couldn’t join the AMA because it thought GH was “socialistic”.

  8. Juneau

    I logged in to see how the system works so I could help out my patients. I went to the New York site on Tuesday. I entered my real name to serve as my username and the system told me it was taken already. A shock since I have a really really unusual name. I slightly modified my real name to serve as my username and got in to the system. I then finished page 1 and waited for my email verification link. I got it the following day. I logged back in a day or two later, verified my email and attempted to go to page 3 but got bumped out due to a server error. I then stopped trying.

  9. Banger

    Wow, all sounds very familiar. As a former government contractor I can tell you that if big project goes bad in the way described here then we are in for a nightmare. The problem now is not just the programming side looks pretty bad but the data being collected may be bad as well.

    Sadly, we don’t know (unless somebody here knows) who is responsible for rolling out the system and who were the contractors and what their ties are to the administration. The system was clearly not tested–they rolled it out probably before testing had run its course–as anyone who has been part of a complex web application having to bridge multiple databases knows, testing is as important as writing code and perhaps more so–it takes great skill and ingenuity to construct tests and either they didn’t finish or they have idiots doing the testing.

    Many projects go wrong or limp throughout their life with daily duct-tape applications. Why that is is usually based on stupidity on the part of the the bureaucrats who have created the specs and the relentless need for contractors to bill hours at the maximum rate while hiring the least competent programmers at a low rate to make short-term profits. If things go south the contractors have a flawed contract in hand and a reams of paperwork that look good that nobody will ever go through.

    Mind you, that is not to say excellent systems have not been created by great contractors–because usually things go well–but when they don’t they look a lot like what you describe.

    1. PaulArt

      The database provider is Oracle. If I was OBomber and was told I had no other choice besides Larry Ellison to give me the Database piece then I would have totally canceled Obomber care itself.

      1. craazyboy

        There is nothing wrong with Oracle. It is the gold standard in database management software, especially on big UNIX machines necessary for large, high volume apps.

        It’s quite hilarious to read what kind of failures they are getting. This shouldn’t have got past the first stage of design, before the first line of code was written. The backend shouldn’t even be sending unverified and/or incomplete files to the insurance providers as completed accounts.

        1. KFritz

          Please note:

          “Alert reader johm” is much more computer literate, savvy about the credit rating agencies, and intellectually flexible than the vast majority of citizen-consumers who will be playing tag with this mishegas. Empathize with a less capable individual in johm’s place.

      1. Binky Bear

        As if by some magical means the ACA would be implemented by some means other than the normal Federal project bidding system?

        What color are the unicorns on your rainbow, starshine? Only torture and mass destruction programs get sole sourcing on this plane of existence.

  10. Schtubb

    The “6th Place Southeast” => “6th PL SE” problem is a standard, well traveled problem in mailing list database work called address verification or address standardization. There are all manner of services and databases, definitely commercial, and also likely from USPS itself, that would solve exactly this issue.

    Without a doubt it’s a hard problem, and manual intervention is required sometimes – I speak from experience. But if the example given is complete and accurate, that one (Place => PL and Southeast => SE) should have been cleaned up with even the piddly, el-cheapo standardization stuff I have had to use in the past.

    The whole thing would be laughable if it isn’t, effectively, killing people.

    1. Banger

      Indeed the address problem shows me that either there is a great deal of corruption in the contracting for this project or utter incompetence on the people assigned to write and monitor the contracts. In my experience it is a combination of the two and these issues, if the address problems is any indication, are not likely to be solved.

    2. Jim Haygood

      ‘Who, after all, is to say which of “6th Place Southeast” and “6th PL SE” is wrong?’

      One party who does so is USPS. In their zip code lookup engine, enter ‘318 6th Street Southeast; Washington DC’. It returns ‘318 6th ST SE’ — the official address, as far as they’re concerned.


      So in our brave new world, actual (you know) spelled out WORDS are banned and wrong, and will get you kicked out of the exchanges for being some kind of egghead intellectual agitator with literary pretensions.

      Too smarty-pants to use official abbreviations like the rest of us, ain’t ya boy?

    3. jrs

      Experian itself does address verification.

      “Ensure a healthy database with back-end address cleansing software from Experian QAS. Clean, complete and verify existing records in an address database against the latest U.S. Postal Service address data file using QAS Clean. It will also standardize your addresses by appending ZIP + 4 , adding missing address details and correcting any spelling or formatting errors it finds.”

      That’s why these reports of supposed errors aren’t even in some sense believable, though I guess I’d believe it if I saw it myself. Or, they are using Experian purely for credit verification without using Experian itself OR any other tool for address cleaning/verification. You would think such services would come bundled but maybe not.

  11. Timothy Gawne

    The Obama administration is not incompetent. In fact, Obama is the most brilliant and gifted politician in American history. Just realize that among his many talents are a true genius at misdirection. After over five years of governing to the far right of Herbert Hoover, most Americans still think he is a ‘liberal’?

    When Obama wanted to give trillions of dollars to Wall Street, there were no glitches. When Obama pretended to give relief to individual homeowners behind on their mortgages, somehow it was just too hard and the computers crashed and the money didn’t get spent.

    Obamacare is all about maximizing revenue to the big insurance companies. That means maximizing the cost of the insurance and minimizing the amount of true health care. Making it impossible to compare plans, tying people up in knots, brining in private credit agencies etc. will maximize the chances of people getting a bad deal or picking the wrong zone etc. As a bonus, the confusing laws will maximize the fines and fees that the federal government can suck of out lower and middle income taxpayers – hey, every $1000 in fines is that much more we can throw to the plutocrats!

    Occam’s third razor: never assume stupidity when the allegedly ‘stupid’ behavior nets someone a whole lot of money.

  12. clarence swinney

    Millions of our Republicans march into churches to worship Jesus Christ.
    The savior who spent his adult years promoting care for the least amongst thee and condemn the greedy wealthy.
    The Government is shut down and no help goes to the needy via Meals on Wheels
    or local Loaves and Fishes.
    Food Stamps have been cut.
    We are stilling innocent people in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
    The R defeated America Job Bill intended to create/save 4 million jobs.
    The R will not increase the debt ceiling even tho the deficit has been cut in half over the past five years.
    We continue to build killing machines such as drones.
    Yes! Republicans when you worship please get a conversion to care for the least amongst thee.
    Go ahead with Tea Party intent to Cut The Government and Cut the Taxes For The Rich.
    We are still in the Bush Great Recession.

    1. tongorad

      How did you get that impression? Sounds like real people are having real problems with the system. Should we not talk about these issues in your opinion?
      Or should we take two tablets of hope and change and call you in the morning?

    2. diptherio

      ObamaCare started life out as HeritageCare…does that help at all?

      Most here at NC, it appears to me, are advocates of a Medicare-for-All approach to healthcare delivery. The ACA was a give-away to the insurance companies from day one…it was never meant to provide even universal health-insurance coverage, much less universal health care (which is what most of us here advocate).

      At this point, it’s not so much a matter of rooting for ObamaCare to fail, as it is “I-told-you-so” schadenfreude. We’ve been expecting this for some time (thanks to Lambert’s intrepid reporting) and there is some satisfaction in seeing things play out exactly as awfully as we’ve been expecting.

      1. jrs

        Why did they delay implementation of Obama’s signature “achievement” for such a long time, until after his relection. Oh. Now it all makes sense.

    3. ambrit

      The point is that the HeritageRomneyObamaCare Program was designed to enable corruption. It does almost nothing to increase the well being of the general population, and everything to enrich the “Usual Suspects” among the business community. We are like bystanders watching a train wreck. Oh the agony, oh the spectacle.

    4. bruh1

      I call this type of comment a “Daily Kos” comment

      When you can’t respond to the substance, you change the subject by pushing emotional arguments that distract

      It doesn’t matter what this site wants one way or the other

      The question is does it or does it not work. Period.

    5. Yves Smith

      In case you missed it, we aren’t partisan here. When the Dems screw up, we are all over them. They happen to be running the Executive branch these days, so they are in the crosshairs more than the Republicans.

      We were hugely critical of the ACA when it passed because this was the big push to get health care “reform” and there was not going to be political appetite to revisit this topic for at least 20 years, as indicated by the failed Clinton health care push.

      We never liked Obamacare because:

      1. It promotes a costly and defective program of health care insurance, not health care. Estimates range that anywhere from 18% to over 30% of total health care costs come from the costs of insurance. In other countries, admin costs are 8% or lower. I tend to accept the 30%+ cost because the ~18% cost estimates look strictly at the costs of the insurance companies that have to be recovered in premiums, and do not factor in the costs doctors spend fighting with insurance companies to be paid (and does not allow for the cost of private employers or individuals having to fight with insurers either).

      2. Obama never never even tried to get single payer, and was never serious about the public option. Lambert can give you chapter, book, and verse on that one.

      3. The ACA was not about fixing health care, it was about looting, as in enriching big Pharma and health insurers. Both groups of stocks went up when the ACA passed (in case you missed it, the ACA bans reimportation from Canada). It was pretty much written by the health insurance industry. Don’t believe me? The NYT even profiled the lobbyist and described her role.

      4. We also predicted that the likely result of the ACA was overpriced insurance that did not provide good coverage. Many of the early reports suggest that is looking to be true, between narrow networks and high deductibles and co-pays on bronze plans.

    6. Lambert Strether Post author

      It’s dumb to defund it, as the Republicans want; ObamaCare was always going to help some people. It’s just that those it does help, it helps whimsically and capriciously, and it will never help all, equally.

      It should be replaced with a truly universal system like single payer. If we’d done that in 20010 we would have saved a trillion dollars, and people would have “come to love it.”

      This butchered rollout is an excellent teaching opportunity to remind people of what could have been; ALL the problems with the Federal ObamaCare exchange come down to the decision to leave the health insurance companies in place. That is the cause of the overwhelming complexity.

      1. oregonchris

        I don’t disagree at all RE: single payer etc.

        I do think that NC underestimates the effect of overriding pre-existing condition exclusions.

        RE: “Daily Kos” comment; I’m not going to apologize for taking a longer view than Lambert’s post and asking whether Obamacare is progress or not. It is a valid question. I don’t think anyone can validly call this DOA on week 1.

  13. Cynthia

    The opinion of many, who, I would say, are mostly of the social-democratic persuasion, is that Obamacare is bad, but all the alternatives are worse; we cannot do any better because large corporations have more influence in the government than anyone else, and they will not permit a medical insurance system which does not pay them off. Many of these social democrats would prefer Single Payer, but they know that we aren’t going to get it anytime soon.

    As many have noted, Obama’s system was invented by Romney, or someone working for him, so it’s hardly a piece of communism. The fanatical Republican opposition is ideologically incoherent, as is the party in general. Its components — religious fanatics, business interests, libertarians, neo-conservatives — are all inherently at odds with one another, and it would not be surprising if they broke apart in the not-too-distant future, leaving only the corrupt, corporatist Democrats as the sole major party.

    1. Jim Haygood

      Or maybe the D’s and R’s will annihilate each other, leaving the country to be run by packs of ravenous, feral jackals. Oh, wait …!

    2. JGordon

      That was an extremely putrid view of “liberals” and Democrats you just painted Cynthia. Thank you for reaffirming to me my belief that Deomcrats are generally worthless human beings and closet Fascists.

  14. diptherio

    Well, not everyone still thinks Obummer is a liberal. Some people have gotten the message. Check this out for a giggle:

    NSA Wiretapping Public Service Announcement ~The Whitest Kids U’ Know

    What can we do, vote in new leaders? Well, the problem is that during an election each candidate pretends to not be an ***hole. Then, when they get the job, they reveal that they’ve actually been a complete ***hole this entire time.

    Just look at these people they’re gonna let us pick from in 2016. You think that they’re not going to be giant ***holes?

    The kids are all right…

  15. DB

    Once you hit Experian that is exactly what happens when dealing with them every time (at least 6 over as many years) when trying to get a free annual credit report. Right down to the phone call and demand to mail verifying info, every single time. This is THEIR standard operating procedure in my experience. It does not happen with the other credit reporting bureaus. So if the feds can get them to change…..

  16. PaulArt

    I just spent some time on the healthcare.gov website trying to sign up and as a Software Engineer it is my suspicion that there are deliberate bugs introduced into the software. For example – I entered ALL the information for my family correctly the first time and at the final screen it listed my eldest daughter as my Parent and it also listed my wife as her step parent. I went back and tried to correct this 4 times and failed to correct it. It just kept assuming for some reason that my eldest daughter (who is 16) was my step child. The only thing I can think of is there is some sort of tax related question somewhere in the middle regarding dependents or some such crap that makes it behave this way. I do not have ANY out of the ordinary situation – no first or second marriage, no step children, same situation with my wife, no first marriage or step children or anything. How can this software screw up like this? This is why I suspect sabotage. I gave up after 4 times of trying to correct the information. I think that this is why many people were unable to get into the website because if people like me are stuck there for hours on end (it took me 40 minutes before I finally gave up)then a lot of people are not going to be able to get through. I think this is DELIBERATE. I doubt if Obama himself would have a hand in this because he WANTS people to sign up and give their life blood to the insurance companies, right? So why would his administration do this? I suspect that there are some people who have worked with the back end of this software who are responsible for this sh*t. The identification system works fine – it asks you for some questions to which ONLY you would know the answer and this is the part that comes from the credit rating agencies I guess. This part went through fine. Anyway, that is my two cents. There is also a possibility of ‘live chat’ but I did not use that. I will go back and give it one more try and also try using the live chat and report back.

    1. PaulArt

      I made one last try and this time I used the ‘Chat’ help. Someone came online in a few seconds after I clicked on the chat button but they could not help me more than say that I should try to apply during a time when traffic is less, for example very late at night or very early in the morning. When I described my specific problem they first asked me to wait so that they can try and retrieve my information- when this obviously failed they came back and asked ‘Did you complete an application?’. Since I had not completed an application I guess the entire conversation was useless. The other thing I forgot to mention was that anytime you try to ‘EDIT’ changes in your family information then you are in for a doozy. It takes you ALL the way back to YOURSELF and you start with YOUR name, SSN etc etc. So, if you are a family of Father, Mother, Child-1, Child-2, Child-3, Child-4, Child-5 and you made a mistake entering Child-5’s information then grab a few anti-depressants and blood pressure medications because you will have to go back to ‘Father’ and make your way back to Child-5 all through, Father-Mother-Child-1-Child-2 etc etc. This is however made a little painless since the form remembers a lot of your information you entered previously and you can simply click your way through but it’s still tedious and it’s a huge NO-NO when it comes to user interface design. jQuery was designed specifically to address this by including intelligent client programming in the browser itself. The lack of intelligent client side programming is also another reason why they are unable to manage traffic to the site. If every user to your site gets stuck there for an hour then you will run out of server processing time and will have to turn away people. It’s amazing that in this day and age of super fast jQuery libraries and client side programming we are made to go through this nonsense. Also, there is a sidebar panel when you are entering information and it does show each family member’s name once you have completed entering their information – I thought that clicking on the name (the names are clickable) would take me to their information from where I can easily fix errors. Nope! That was expecting too much. Clicking on their names does nothing. Also, once you bail out of the system it only remembers some of the information you input which is a relief but it forgets others. I pity the people who are forced to enroll through this system.

    2. anon y'mouse

      “The identification system works fine – it asks you for some questions to which ONLY you would know the answer and this is the part that comes from the credit rating agencies I guess.”

      no, it works fine FOR YOU. for the past 2 years, every time I try to use the same identification system to obtain my free credit report online, one of the Big 3 corps has been asking me to verify questions that have NO RELATION to me. they are asking me to verify addresses I have never lived at, mortgages that I do not possess. when I correctly give the “only answer I know to be the truth” it shows up as a failure—I have not correctly verified my identity because I truthfully answered questions about myself when the credit report company was asking me to verify incorrect details, possibly details about someone else entirely.

      the onus should be on THEM to verify your details first. otherwise, I can give them every true detail of my life and they will still say “no, according to our files you are not Jane X. Doe.”

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Yep. Note that the problems johm had were with good data. It looks like you’re faced with data that allows you to be confused with another person who was what the NSA, faced with a similar problem, called “descriptors.” I call that “the match game” here:

        The question now becomes, how many “pieces of information” will the ObamaCare backend system use when matching IRS records to Social Security records to DHS records to “consumer reporting agency” records in order to determine [identity and] income (hence eligibility)? Again, we can’t know, because ObamaCare’s income (eligibility) determination algorithm is completely opaque. Nor can we know how many of the “mixed credit profiles” will affect income determination (assuming, again, though we don’t know, that this is the only data requested from the consumer reporting agencies.******) And again, the errors could be capricious, and grant coverage to some while denying it to others.

        So the system has you confused with somebody else whose “pieces of information” are similar to you.

        But there’s a bright side! You will, on your own time and under a mandate, be permitted to straighten out Experian’s data for them, with the happy outcome that they will be able to hound you more effectively if you’re in trouble with anything else.

    1. PaulArt

      By the way, I read this article and I have no clue why this fellow who is the Chief Digital Architect of the system says ‘we need to make sure it’s not a Third World experience’. I mean, he is the boss, so if it is a Third World experience then is he not the ‘Chief Digital Fail’ here? Also, while my experience in trying to enroll was frustrating I would not say that this is unique. I recently tried to access the website of a healthcare company that does biometric health and wellness screening for my employer and I noticed that every time I logged in, it would forget my password and make me go through the challenge questions and make me change my password. This happened EVERY TIME I logged in. This was a C**NA website by the way. I had to call them up and I was told that this was a bug and was now filed and it would take a few days to fix it. So, private sector software is not sweetness and light either.

  17. Jason Boxman

    The best part? The verification of income for new Student loans through doe goes through IRS for income verification and it works great! What an embarrassment this entire disaster is…

    And I’ve always been terrified of getting one of those experian questions wrong. Now I know what happens. Ugh. I’m asked about stuff from 10 years ago I almost don’t remember like one semester college apt addresses.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Well, the purpose of the student loan stuff is to turn you into a debt slave, as opposed to delivering a service, like ObamaCare at least notionally does, so you can see why it would be optimized for functionality, as it were.

  18. Peter Pan

    I though I’d be really smart and investigate ACA through various websites before attempting the exchange. First, I discovered that I’d be thrown into the Medicaid bucket but that it’s not called Medicaid; it’s called AppleHealth so as to confuse the little people. These two terms are used in an inconsistent manner through a variety of state documents.

    The next step was to research what I would get in Medicaid, er AppleHealth. I went to the state’s Health Care Authority website and discovered multiple dead links relating to Medicaid, er AppleHealth. I was frustrated.

    So I went to the websites of the various Managed Health Organizations (MHO’s aka insurance companies) that have contracted with the state to administer (deny) the Medicaid, er AppleHealth program. I discovered multiple dead links on all of the sites. I was frustrated.

    Lastly, I went to the websites of the Healthcare Provider Organizations that are contracted with the MHO’s for medical treatment under Medicaid, er AppleHealth. Once again I discovered multiple dead links. Now I’m completely frustrated.

    I was able to ascertain that Medicaid, er AppleHealth is an inconsistent program in terms of the health care one will receive. The program has substantial variances amongst the HMO’s (approved primary providers, hospitals, formularies and pharmacies).

    I’m so glad I didn’t even attempt the state’s health care exchange. Besides, I have been receiving mailers from the insurance companies to contact them directly to sign up for ACA approved insurance.

  19. bh2

    “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?

    The US Postal Service.

    This is why our for-fee real estate listings syndication service submits the street address for every new listing to USPS validation as part of our automated quality control process.

    Up to 40% of these require some correction if they are even recognizable to USPS. The most common correction returned is for incorrect format of the street address (e.g. “Place” rather than “PL”). USPS can only validate physical addresses it knows about (meaning those known physically deliverable by carriers).

    It’s unimaginable that anyone would build user-initiated manual input forms which require exact match on “correct” street address and not also provide auto-correction.

    Moreover, it’s wretched excess that a system unique keyed to SS numbers would require a perfect match on the street address in order to proceed (rather than ask for subsequent confirmation). If you wonder why everything in government is like driving on cobblestones, it’s often because of the prissy, schoolmarmish imposition of requirements difficult to conform to in real life.

    This system was never tested end-to-end. Period.

    It was dumped on the public and declared “good to go” because the same kind of prissy, schoolmarmish weenies are appointed to high offices they are not remotely qualified to manage. In the end, this particular Obamocrud failure (more are to come) is an abject failure of project management by officials who should be dismissed.

    This offers some evidence of how much credence should be attached to testimony to Congress by Cabinet secretaries and their drones that all is well on their watch. They should never be permitted to speak in public unless as sworn testimony. And directly actionable by Congress (not the DOJ) when they boldly lie.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I should have brought that out, thank you. This is a well-kwown problem and there are tools to handle it. That, from johm’s experience, they weren’t installed or didn’t work or were unplugged just boggles the mind. It’s like watching a planet move out of its orbit and crash into the sun. Or a train wreck. Or a third world experience.

      1. bh2

        The problem with even the best tools, of course, is that they do not bestow competency.

        This (and many other) abysmal political deceits and failures increasingly suggest the US is deliberately being harvested by its leadership as the richest of all third-world nations.

        People get exactly the government they deserve. Americans will be surprised to learn they are not exceptional.

    2. Banger

      Yep, that’s about the way it is. One of the reasons why I am so down about the future of social democracy is that government agencies have been ruined by a system that, since the 80s, has been “downsized” meaning that they opened up the gov’t to contractors and the corruption and inefficiencies that are inevitable when private interests get their fingers in government. The perfect storm occurred when the gov’t started demanding the latest computer apps yet they stopped hiring younger people or people who were computer literate while all those people went to the contracting community and designed ever more clever ways to flim-flam the government.

      1. bh2

        Um, Banger, how do you define “downsized”?


        Surely not in the number of directly employed people on federal payroll. Contractors are ON TOP of that growth.

        Surely not in the swelling of budgets over the past decade (or half-century for that matter).

        About what size do you think government should be? How big a budget? Once achieving that size, would you agree it should not grow further?

        Asking people these questions is generally about like asking them “how high is up”. They have no idea. Just believe it should be “more”.

        And that’s exactly why we are where we are.

  20. allcoppedout

    The UK developed a national health service from a private one. This may sound trite, but there is a certain irony intended. We weren’t particularly good at much and broke as a nation when we achieved this. Of course, we ripped the best people out of former empire to staff our system. Do you get any main media coverage showing health care in developed Europe? Momentum to spend more on ours built after we realised such ‘useless’ countries as Spain and the ‘loathable’ Germany were better places to be ill in.

    Lambert has a good point that these early signs say a great deal about future “organisational structuration”. Not much work got done on showing Joe and Jolene USA the benefits of an NHS where you turn up and get fixed, little on rooting out crooks and other stuff that makes the US ‘Broken City’ writ large. I might have started by telling the American populace just how much private medicine there was in the USSR and why – the US can rarely stand looking itself in the mirror. The insurance companies noticed decades ago that a poorly funded NHS can be relied on to take the customers they don’t want off their hands and encourage those able to pay to cough up (the old Soviet system, current ones in the Middle East). This is the plan you guys are being stiffed with. Up to around 1990 (UK) we had loads of private insurance top up schemes more generous than Obamacare and its built-in rationing through not meeting all costs.

    Good luck with the fundraising. I’ll chip in in a couple of weeks when I get over the belly-ache caused by your self-promotion. NC is conservative, similar to the Scandinavian form without its social democracy, or the German welfare capitalism that inspired Bader-Meinhoff reaction. I love the idea of influencing the people (thieves) on the Hill! Ms Smith goes to Washington! I come here because I grow my own vegetables. Good site worth supporting.

  21. Yancey Ward

    Lambert, you are in for a IRS audit I am afraid.

    I can confirm every problem you and your friend, johnm have found.

    The first two days (Oct 1 and 2), I had the same problem with the security questions in the 1 in 10 times I was even able to get the “create account” page to load. On Friday of the first week, I finally created an account that had my name, state, userid, password, and answered security questions. They even sent the confirming e-mail promptly, but on clicking the link, I was unable log back into the account. I probably tried logging in 20 times between that Friday afternoon and the following Wednesday, trying both the forgot userid and password options. Half the time, the e-mail in the forgot userid or password never arrived, but even when it did, I always got an error claiming it couldn’t find a profile under the userid or password.

    Last Wednesday, I read a comment that HHS had started to believe that accounts created the first week might well be fatally borked, and I started to receive suggestions that I create a second account. This is definitely worrisome to anyone who has ever had to create two accounts online since lots of databases get confused if you enter just duplicate e-mail addresses, for example. However, I bit the bullet and tried to do this well over 10 times between Wednesday and early this morning using a different userid and password but with the same e-mail address, all without success- the site always said it couldn’t create an account at this time. However, this morning I got a different error message- it said the new userid was in use, so, about an hour ago, I picked a 3rd user id and the second password, and finally created a second account, got the email confirmation and was finally able to log back into the new account.

    With my new account I was prompted to confirm ID, so I entered address, birthdate (I decided to to optionally refuse to enter SS#- the box is declared to be optional afterall), phone number, and all other required field, and hit submit (or whatever the button is called at that stage, and was told my ID could not be verified, and was given a number to call. I called the number at Experian, got put on hold for over 20 minutes at which time I was told to call back or continue waiting. I will not be one bit surprised to find that I will also have to mail or fax info just to get ID confirmed.

    1. bh2

      “Half the time, the e-mail in the forgot userid or password never arrived, […]”

      Just curious, but did they issue a new temporary password for login only (so you could reset a real one) OR did they send your real password in UNSECURE PLAIN TEXT email?

      1. Yancey Ward


        No, it includes a link to reset the password in the system itself- no temporary password. However, your question got me to take a second look at the e-mails, and here is the one sent for the reset that does include the userid over an unsecured text. I have XXXed it out in bold below:

        You’re getting this message because you forgot your password. Please click the link below to reset your password. If you didn’t request this change, please call 1-800-318-2596. TTY users should call 1-855-889-4325. https://www.healthcare.gov/marketplace/global/en_US/registration#forgotPasswordQuestions?user=XXXXXXXXXXXX&uuid=afa82c90-d600-4fec-bec4-c374b447efa2

        1. bh2

          Thanks, Yancy.

          This indicates they didn’t take the next trivial step toward password security: maintaining a table of passwords and logins for “lost credentials” requests, each referenced to a temporary and arbitrary long hash which can then be mentioned in the email link. (The temporary table entry is then expired after X minutes OR after successful login, whichever comes earliest).

          While that wouldn’t provide an absolutely secure method, it would at least avoid dangers of openly shipping the real login and/or password in email.

          This is a danger people should probably pay attention to whenever they make a “lost password” request: look carefully at the contents to see what’s revealed.

          One simple solution would be for providers to offer encrypted email (GPG/PGP) to those customers using it. But that would probably inconvenience the esteemed NSA which is already struggling so mightily to “keep us all safe”.


          I once had an account online with a community bank that shipped both login id and password by return email. When I wrote them about this obvious security risk, they explained the necessary programming to fix that problem would be “difficult” for their contract service to perform. They were eventually swept away by the FDIC — likely as victims of natural selection.

  22. Yancey Ward

    I read the link above from the Orlando Sentinel. It is the same as all other accounts I have seen of success in buying a policy in the federal exchange- it contains no visual, recorded proof of success, and is as completely unsupported as the Chad Henderson claim that the original claimant eventually admitted he lied about. To date, I haven’t seen a single proven successful purchase in the federal exchange using the online system, and I suspect any successes have probably been accomplished by by-passing the online system at some point altogether.

    In addition, the inability to even determine what is meant by “enrolled” when discussing the state exchanges claims of success, I wonder if more than 10,000 people have purchased policies in the individual market since October 1st.

  23. KFritz

    “Alert reader johm” is much more computer literate, savvy about the credit rating agencies, and intellectually flexible than the vast majority of citizen-consumers who will be playing tag with this mishegas. Empathize with a less capable individual in johm’s place.

  24. EoH

    Privatizing the data “verification” with Experian? Now we know Mr. Obama isn’t serious about getting this program up and running and at a reasonable cost.

    Inquiring minds might want to know the confidentiality and non-use restrictions, if any, imposed on Experian under this outsourcing contract. They might also want to know the performance criteria, if any, and how quickly the taxpayer is on the hook for extra charges for making the system actually work as well as a reasonable user would expect. It seems likely that bid-to-actual costs here will bear the same relationship that they do in the military-intel outsourcing world.

  25. LucyLulu

    I feel like I keep getting stuck in the position of having to defend this legislation out of need for fairness. Ugghhhh.

    I don’t if anybody else caught the interview on C-span with Bush’s Secretary of HHHS, Mike Leavitt, perhaps not since so many here don’t watch TV. He was responsible for the roll-out of Medicare part D, a program approximating ACA in size and complexity. He’s a diehard conservative and not a fan of ACA or Obama in that he sees both as increasing the debt.

    He said that the problems, namely IT, that are being seen with ACA are very similar to what were experienced with the rollout of Medicare part D, as was the reactions to the problems, only the parties were reversed with Democrats saying the glitches were proof that a delay was needed. He said the IT piece is very complex and difficult to implement but there is time to get things sorted out yet. The problems aren’t so serious they can’t be fixed in time. In his experience, people shop around initially and don’t sign up until closer to the deadline. He couldn’t guarantee that the problems WOULD be fixed in time of course, and said that if there are still significant glitches come mid-November, the Administration needs to be concerned.

    His main criticisms were 1) not getting an earlier jump on the project. He said that he started major efforts 18 months prior to rollout. He thought implementing after a campaign year was a mistake. 2) Not enough efforts to education of folks on the ground. Medicare part D spent hundreds of millions on educating people and many months about what the program was and who was eligible, etc and forming alliances with affiliated businesses, like pharmacies. He did say he suspected Obama was subjected to more budget constraints than he was. The ACA has to be fully paid for with offsets unlike Part D (which is why single-payer option got killed).

    The other critique that occurred to me was when he mentioned as an aside he’d never been consulted. In 1993 I got roped into organizing a large national horse show whose profits provided the sole funding for a non-profit organization for the year. I had criticized the previous year’s organizer’s efforts and it was a case of “Well, if you can do a better job…..” Boy, if I didn’t learn a valuable lesson about the difficulty of backseat driving versus piloting….. and about criticizing those who are generously donating vast amounts of uncompensated time. Organizing the show even required taking the last three weeks off work so it cost money if employed as I was… but I had a spouse’s generous income back then.

    Anyways, I’d helped with pieces of horseshows (and am a take charge sort as well as OCD, i.e. perfect for the job) but never been in charge, much less a show of this scale. The former organizer, who I’d criticized, refused to offer more than minimal assistance, understandably miffed. So I developed a relationship with another acquantaince from the competition world who organized a show of similar size and scale and called her frequently for advice. It was my single smartest decision. The show was a success (though there were mistakes for correction the next year, and yes, I did it again, for 4 years, until a riding accident/broken neck transformed life as I knew it) but without her sage guidance to steer me back on course, I would have made some serious mistakes, far worse than the ones I’d criticized. The Obama Administration would have been well-advised to consult with Leavitt about the obstacles to look out for and to ask about what he learned. There is no better teacher than that of experience, and the implementation of Medicare Part D was a uniquely comparable model in terms of size, complexity, and the systems required to interact with.
    The Obama Administration had a valuable resource at their disposal (assuming he was willing, and I got the impression he would’ve been) they failed to take to take advantage of.

    1. bh2

      One of the characteristics of successful project managers is that they take serious personal ownership of the project (as you did) and are also totally paranoid (owing to experience).

      No project should ever be managed by someone who is the least bit cocky about certainty of the outcome even if there seems to be a lot of slack time built in (which usually turns out to be completely fictitious when the project plan is fully laid out). You plainly don’t suffer from that liability either.

      Going to someone who has actually “done it” for continuing advice shows enormous maturity and dedication to get it right the first time without regard to who gets the credit.

      I’m so sorry to hear about your accident and hope it won’t prove to be a permanent disability. There are damn few excellent project managers in this world, and they are worth their weight in gold.

      You may have found your real calling (even if by a hard path).

      Good luck to you, Lucy.

    2. roadrider

      I feel like I keep getting stuck in the position of having to defend this legislation out of need for fairness. Ugghhhh.

      What “fairness” are you referring to? The seemingly endless cases of unfairness and capriciousness that Lambert has been painstakingly documenting on this site?

      How about the fact that if you’re north of 50 years old you can (and will be in all but two states as I recall) be charged up to three times as much for the same shitty coverage as a younger person. That can only be considered “fair” from the perspective from an institution obsessed with making a profit from the unavoidable increase in the need for health-care services as one ages. And no, it’s not even remotely all due to bad lifestyles. I’m in mostly excellent health, eat sensibly, don’t smoke, rarely drink and exercise a lot more than most folks but that hasn’t kept me from needing five maintenance medications for age-related issues or from getting early-stage prostate cancer.

      I used the Kaiser calculator to try to figure out if buying through the Maryland exchange instead of my COBRA carrier would save me any money. FAT FUCKING CHANCE!!! It would be nearly twice as much in premiums with double the cost sharing and, if the reports I’ve read are true, a narrower network which for a cancer patient can be quite detrimental.

      All the “fairness” aspects of Obama-Don’t-Care could have been implemented by separate legislation that regulated the most objectionable practices of the insurance industry (rescission, denial of coverage, etc). We didn’t need this right-wing corporatist Rube Goldberg scheme to accomplish any of that. In fact, it seems to me that this system has been set up to allow the participating insurers to game the system in much the same way by shunting the unemployed onto Medicare and pricing out those who are most likely to need coverage.

      So save your deluded, O-bot angst for the far less gullible. The ACA is not defensible on the grounds of fairness in any way, shape or form.

      1. Code Name D

        But I still empathies with LucyLulu’s point here. Our conversation against Obamacare and the ACA is rather one sided. The few defenders we get here throw out the same tired talking points that are easily refuted, but never manage to engage in the points being raised.

        In fact, Democrats are far more comfortable arguing with Republicans about health care, and then they are in dealing with genuine conversations about its flaws. Even in the rare case when they are in an actual debate, they never even acknowledge its problems, a least not beyond admitting that there are problems and that it’s not perfect. Once they admit to this… they then go on about how people will come to love it.

  26. dvautier

    It may become impossible to join Obamacare because of all the catastrophic system failures (aka. “glitches”). What then are we to do? I suppose if one of your kids breaks an arm, then can you sue the government for not allowing you to get insurance to cover the expense

  27. Jane Doe

    Try to repost again

    The problem with the system is that its reinforcing HMO models.

    While the technical issues are interesting, the HMO model is the last direction we should want to go as far as quality of care. It takes the worst of all world- expensive plans coupled with limited choices.

    There’s a reason they score 19 percent approval in polls.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Jane, I’m focusing on the technical aspects because that’s something unique I can add, because it really is horrible, and because that’s the best way to have a teachable moment now, as opposed to the policies people will begin to evaluate as soon as they can, like, see the policies…

  28. SMcg

    Finally got an account I could log into. Now I am waiting several for verification. Why could verification be so hard for a person who paid taxes, has multiple id’s, multiple credit cards, has lived at the same place for years, etc. This is the simplest case of all.

  29. jfleni

    “I just can’t imagine why the Democrats went for ObamaCare instead”.

    More fast bucks, there Bubba! Wadya think? Barry Butt-kisser has rocks in his head? He serves his masters, no matter how stupid they are.

  30. mac

    The system failures are not a surprise.
    Anyone with any experience designing, coding and testing such a system can tell you it was released too early.
    It may have been poorly designed and not had the design evaluated, it may be poorly coded and certainly was not tested well.
    Those things happen when a product is rolled out too early, hardware software or ideas.
    The only answer is find the problems and fix them.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      If the problems are fixable given the resources and the requirements, possibly. “The cheapest, fastest, and most reliable components are those that aren’t there.” Single payer leaves out a lot of components that don’t need to be there.

  31. smartstrike

    I had originally had a problem with the system accepting my electronic signature and getting ‘unresolveable error’ message navigating NEVADA HEALTH LINK. After 4-days of getting stuck at the same place, I ended up purging all of my data and restarting again against the help-line advice.

    I was able to create and complete the whole process with my second ID in 30 minutes.

    1. darms

      FWIW, I was able to create an account & login last Friday (10/11) w/ little problems, although I had to use Chrome as a browser (TX). While the least expensive bronze policy offered was $380/month, less than I paid for my COBRA policy (which has expired) it was significantly more than the catastrophic care plan I have now so BFD. BTW, I was told the max age for catastrophic care plans in the marketplace is 30…

  32. Code Name D

    The bullshit has gotten so deep I can’t see the sky any more.

    The Young Trunk shows are usually rather solid. They have interesting conversations with hosts that don’t always agree. But now when it comes to the ACA. Oh sure there the obligatory to the bugs, but that’s mer technicalities. They are so convinced that the public will fall in love with the ACA, assuming they are not already declaring that the public has already fallen in love with the ACA.

    I mean, listen to this exchange: http://youtu.be/Fe67WDax80U
    Those who follow NC will notice just how overtly absent any criticism is from the left. I am seriously questioning just how credible this show is, especially given that they have been critical of Obama in the past.

    I think it’s the Republicans doing here. Usually it’s the Democrats that prop up the Republicans. But this time it’s the other way around. With the government shut down and there attempts to defund Obamacare, any serious examination of the rollout has been shoved right off the page.

    The numbers of actual enrolment are insanely all over the map. I am hearing numbers of 50,000 enrolled (well on their way to the 9 million they are shooting for)… to zero. The Wichita Engel recently reported that not a single person enrolled here in Kansas because not a single person managed to complete a new account. (Don’t bother looking for it; the Engel appears to have pulled it from the online version. But why is it not there?) And its not just the eagle, I found the same exact article pop up in a Tulsa paper – word for word, just replace Kansas with Oklahoma. (I am thinking it’s bogus. There are plenty of people out there who appear to have successfully registered.)

    We now seem to be moving into the battle of the anecdotes, with Obama crowing about their success stories (and there are defiantly more than a few) to drown out the disaster stories which some are claiming are Republican plants. I am even hearing accusations of Republican hacking and sabotaging the system. (I thought they were just bugs? No one ever mentioned hacking.)

    I honestly do not know what to think about any of this any more. Thankgoodness that Strether is out there, at least letting me know that not every thing is as they would have it appear. Margret Flowers is also out there, and never fails to get them to tap dance around the issues she tries to raise.

    I think we already know how this “debate” is going to progress. There will be dulling antidotes for a few weeks, which will then disappear. The new fail becomes the new normal, with a lot of broken arms with Democrats patting themselves on the back for launching the new SS that the Republicans dare not touch.

    It will be years before any real data can be collected that begins to reveal ACA’s issues. And even then it will take independent reporting that will languish in obscurity. It may be a decade before Congress even begins to entertain the idea that there might be problems, and even then it will be an argument in minutia. (See, ACA has a few hundred fewer bankruptcies per year than the previous system.)

    If a progressive screams in the forest, does he ever truly make a sound to be heard?

  33. Benedict@Large

    Note that if you give your identification information to any credit agency and have any claims of unpaid bills in your past (something more likely for people who would need to use the exchanges), they will turn around and almost immediately begin to dun you.

  34. Benedict@Large

    (#1) On the point of capturing identity information at the point of sale rather than up front, note that an insurer about to make a sale is highly motivated to expedite the process of account creation, and has the skills/experience with system ins and outs to do so. Who is there to do the same when identity capture is up front?

    (#2) Why in hell would anyone even want identity information that was not hooked to a real insurance plan? Whose stupid idea was that? — What happens if I move? If I update the account, will my policy be updated? If I update my policy, will my account be updated. — Both of these, BTW, are Data Design 101 considerations.)

    (#3) Just curious. What does a person without a computer have to do to set up an account? Who in the government is responsible for this?

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