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Obamacare website still not functioning, with weeks to go

Published: Tuesday, July 28 2015 9:29 a.m. MDT

With just weeks before legal deadlines for individuals to obtain coverage, the healthcare.gov website remains a stumbling block. Serious questions now center on whether the site can be fixed in time. (HealthCare.gov) With just weeks before legal deadlines for individuals to obtain coverage, the healthcare.gov website remains a stumbling block. Serious questions now center on whether the site can be fixed in time. (HealthCare.gov)

With just weeks before legal deadlines for individuals to obtain coverage, the healthcare.gov website remains a stumbling block. Serious questions now center on whether the site can be fixed in time.

One explanation for the balky interface, as reported by the Wall Street Journal and elaborated by Forbes, is the website was designed to require detailed personal information before giving the consumer basic information.

"Healthcare.gov forces you to create an account and enter detailed personal information before you can start shopping," Forbes noted. "This, in turn, creates a massive traffic bottleneck, as the government verifies your information and decides whether or not you’re eligible for subsidies. (Health and Human Services Department) bureaucrats knew this would make the website run more slowly. But they were more afraid that letting people see the underlying cost of Obamacare’s insurance plans would scare people away."

NBC News reported that the costs of the website build skyrocketed in the past year, as the deadline for launch approached.

"The U.S. arm of a Canadian company, CGI, had the biggest role of the many contractors that worked on the rollout. It won the contract in October 2011. At the time, it had an estimated cost of up to $94 million. By May of this year, that cost ceiling had swelled to $292 million," NBC reported.

NBC also noted that the contractor has a troubled history. "Last year, the Canadian province of Ontario fired CGI and canceled a $46 million contract, accusing the company of failing to build an online medical registry on time. CGI says that it is in talks to resolve that issue."

CNN reported that early registrants had their passwords deleted, though that problem appears to have been fixed.

"Five call center agents told CNN on Wednesday that because of an upgrade to the beleaguered website, many passwords were deleted if they were created in the first week or so after the launch. More recently created user names and passwords don't seem to have the same problems."

In addition to crashing, the system seems to be sharing bad data, CBS News reported.

"Emerging errors include duplicate enrollments, spouses reported as children, missing data fields and suspect eligibility determinations, say executives at more than a dozen health plans. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Nebraska said it had to hire temporary workers to contact new customers directly to resolve inaccuracies in submissions. Medical Mutual of Ohio said one customer had successfully signed up for three of its plans," CBS News report stated.

No one seems anxious to talk about the data foul ups, according to the Wall Street Journal: "Health department officials have pressured insurers to refrain from commenting publicly about the problems, according to executives at four health plans, who asked not to be named. The HHS declined to comment."

Email: eschulzke@desnews.com

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