Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life

"Outstanding…Moore Triumphs! Publishers Weekly

Mike & Friends Blog

Wendell Potter

Wendell Potter is a health insurance industry whistleblower and author of 'Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans'

October 24th, 2013 12:47 PM

Government needs to fix Obamacare glitches — fast

Now that the federal government is open again, the attention of the public, media and, of course, politicians, will turn, as it should, to whether the Obama administration will be able to make the glitch-plagued health insurance exchanges work.

I wasn’t at all surprised that people were having a hard time signing up for coverage on Oct. 1, the first day the exchanges were supposed to be up and running. Many of the exchanges — specifically those few that were built and are being operated by individual states — worked just fine from the very beginning.

But the exchange for most of the states is being operated by the federal government. In reality, regrettably, it is more accurate to say that they are not being operated by the feds because of technology problems, the extent of which we can only speculate.

That’s because the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services are not being forthcoming about what’s really wrong with the website and how and when things will be fixed.

That doesn’t give supporters of the Affordable Care Act much comfort. Many are understandably anxious. They’re beginning to wonder if the Obama administration really can fix things before Dec. 15, which is the last day of the open enrollment period for individual health insurance policies that go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014.

Instead of sitting down with reporters to explain what’s really going on, administration and HHS officials are just issuing pablum — the kind of statements PR people feed the media when they want to obscure rather than enlighten — which, of course, gives reporters — and opponents of Obamacare — all the more reason to believe that things are much worse than anyone is letting on.

So what happened — or didn’t happen — to make it the federal exchange so unworkable, at least for now?

Here are four possible reasons for the current mess:

  1. HHS wasted valuable time trying to persuade more states to operate their own exchanges. Officials apparently deluded themselves into thinking that even some of the red states could be persuaded that it would be in their best interests to have a state-run exchange than one run by the federal government. In hindsight, those officials wasted months in which time and resources could have been devoted to making sure the federal exchange would work on Oct. 1. HHS officials should have realized from the beginning that Republican governors and state legislators had no incentive for Obamacare to work. There wasn’t a chance that they would operate their own exchanges if doing so might enhance the chances that Obamacare would be perceived as a success.

  2. The administration waited too long to issue important regulations pertaining to the law. HHS clearly didn’t want to announce some of the more controversial regulations until after the 2012 midterm election. Those postponements decreased the chances that insurers and the companies hired to build and operate the federal exchange could have everything in place and working perfectly by Oct. 1.

  3. It made a mistake by requiring that visitors to the website first set up an account before beginning to shop for coverage.  Some states operating their own exchanges didn’t do this, which, again in hindsight, was a wise decision.  Setting up the accounts at the frontend has proven to be a system-crashing undertaking. Apparently only a lucky few have been able to get through the account set-up phase and actually begin the real process of choosing a health plan.

  4. There are simply too many moving parts — and too many health plan options. Not only are there several insurers offering an array of policies in most states, there are four levels of coverage — bronze, silver, gold and platinum — all with varying premiums and coinsurance obligations. Members of Congress who wrote the law fell for the insurance industry’s propaganda that “choice and competition” are what the American people need and want. No, it is what the insurance industry wants. When people do get past the account set-up phase, they have to spend considerable time trying to make sense of the various choices — far more than most employers offer their workers.

Beyond those factors, the reality is that building a system in which so many different entities have to communicate perfectly with each other is no small undertaking. It very well might be the most complicated initiative of its kind in the history of computer technology, at least in health care. I remember all too well when more than a decade ago Cigna encountered huge problems when it began moving its policyholders from numerous legacy claim-paying platforms to a new, unified system. The inevitable glitches infuriated many customers. A lot of policyholders didn’t get their membership cards on time. It was a mess that cost the company dearly. And that was just one company.

Cigna eventually fixed the problems and recovered. Chances are most of the company’s current customers either never knew or don’t remember how bad things were for awhile. If the feds can fix the problems with the exchanges within the next few weeks, few people will remember those problems even this time next year. But if they aren’t fixed soon, all bets are off.

You must log in to comment.

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Log in | Register

If you have a moment today, I hope you can read the obituary for my father Francis (Frank) Moore, who died this past Saturday at the age of 92: Francis...

Apr 22nd
6:33 PM
Read More

My father, Francis (Frank) Moore, passed away this morning a few months shy if his 93rd birthday. He was a great dad I am blessed to have had him in my life. I...

Apr 20th
2:58 AM
Read More

Time to put the cuffs on Chris Christie -- not for the bridge scandal, but for this: Chris Christie's $300m pension proposal broke state anti-corruption...

Apr 18th
7:31 PM
Read More

George W. Bush Debuts New Paintings Of Dogs, Friends, Ghost Of Iraqi Child That Follows Him... President Bush has a new hobby -- painting! --...

Apr 17th
7:28 PM
Read More

Big new story from David Sirota and Pando on top Christie adviser and appearance of corruption at New Jersey's pension fund: REVEALED: Gov....

Apr 17th
12:41 PM
Read More

FBI Uncovers Al-Qaeda Plot To Just Sit Back And Enjoy Collapse Of United States WASHINGTON—The FBI announced today that it has uncovered a...

Apr 15th
3:28 PM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel's top donor bought stock in Marriott just before it was awarded huge contract As schools are closed and pensions cut,...

Apr 9th
2:00 PM
Read More

I'll be at First Time Fest today in New York City at the screening of my first film, Roger & Me. Loews Village 7 at 12:30 pm. Come see it on the big...

Apr 5th
9:48 AM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel cuts public pensions, diverts money to benefit campaign donors If you've read the financial news out of Chicago the last...

Apr 4th
2:19 PM
Read More

Please take a moment today to think of Casey Austin Sheehan, son of Cindy and Patrick, who was murdered by U.S. foreign policy in Sadr City, Baghdad ten years...

Apr 4th
2:00 PM
Read More

ICYMI - I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence...

Apr 3rd
7:38 PM
Read More

I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence Prevention...

Apr 2nd
8:27 PM
Read More

I am opposed to the death penalty, but to every rule there is usually an exception, and in this case I hope the criminals at General Motors will be arrested...

Apr 1st
3:55 PM
Read More

How Long Some in the US Will Survive Under New Health Law Donna Smith Those who must access care to live and can afford it are not...

Mar 31st
10:13 PM
Read More

Last night, The Good Wife on the East Coast started 40 minutes late due to the overrun of the NCAA basketball game. If you had your DVR set for the show, you...

Mar 24th
5:41 PM
Read More

Watching films today, looking for the ones I'm going to pick for my film festival this summer. I (and a whole bunch of others!) have this thing we put on...

Mar 23rd
4:48 PM
Read More

When the U.S. Health Care System Keeps Killing, Who Cares Enough to Fight? Donna Smith We have largely forgotten that people are at...

Mar 21st
5:56 PM
Read More

Tell the White House not to give up on Dr. Vivek Murthy's nomination as Surgeon General despite the ferocious opposition from the NRA: Don't give...

Mar 21st
5:38 PM
Read More

This criminal would never see a jail cell, nor would his cronies. In fact, they'd later be rewarded with re-election: Presidential Address on War with...

Mar 19th
9:40 PM
Read More

The crime of the century -- our invasion & slaughter in Iraq -- started 11 years ago tonite in this 7pm (ET) hour, March 19th, 2003: CNN Coverage of...

Mar 19th
9:08 PM
Read More

Washington’s Back-to-the-Future Military Policies in Africa Nick Turse Nick Turse is an award-winning journalist, historian,...

Mar 17th
4:59 PM
Read More

"I think democracy is the most revolutionary thing in the world." -- Tony Benn, 1925-2014 Tony Benn in 'Sicko'

Mar 14th
10:07 AM
Read More

RIP Tony Benn, one of the UK's greatest leaders: Tony Benn, veteran Labour politician, dies aged 88 Former cabinet minister died at...

Mar 14th
9:53 AM
Read More

Please read this important story from K. Ford K.: Am I the Face of the New American Middle Class? I began to feel I had slipped so low...

Mar 13th
2:24 PM
Read More

Yesterday Dianne Feinstein revealed that the CIA has been spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee. This is all about the report the committee has produced...

Mar 12th
6:48 PM
Read More

Health Care for All Colorado has brought Mercy Killers, a show written and performed by Michael Milligan about our murderous for-profit healthcare system, to...

Mar 10th
1:08 PM
Read More

Health Care Dramas that Sting and Why We Have to Watch Donna Smith The realities Milligan has written into the show cut deep into...

Mar 10th
1:02 PM
Read More

Did you know the Lehrer Newshour on PBS has been produced for 20 years by a company owned by conservative cable billionaire John Malone? Me neither. After...

Mar 7th
8:39 PM
Read More

Mr. Obama, if int’l law is so damn crucial . . . | The Russian intervention deserves criticism. But let’s be clear. The...

Mar 6th
1:21 PM
Read More

Subscribe to Mike's Blog RSS

Click here to suggest an article

Mike's Blog

See More Blogs

Vew the archives

View older articles