Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Expect the glitches to continue

Expect the software problems to continue.
In planning ObamaCare's IT infrastructure, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) dawdled for more than a year under Administrator Donald Berwick until Marilyn Tavenner took over in December 2011. Even then the agency was slow to outsource key contracts and turned to what insiders say were not top-quality programmers. CMS did not sign a contract for a backstop system to process paper verifications and do paper verifications of online applications until July.

The Health and Human Services Department did not begin testing the chief pieces of this IT system until August. The testing found that states couldn't consistently link to the federal portal (a problem that persists in some states), and that the hub couldn't reliably verify if a person is eligible for a subsidy, or accurately calculate how much the applicant is eligible to receive. HHS prevented independent watchdogs, including its own inspector general, from examining the systems before they go live on Oct. 1. The result is a host of troublesome gaps and dangers.
They had three years and they wasted much of that time when they could have been working out these IT problems. And that is why Obama is having to admit that these problems will last for months.
The technology and privacy problems presented by ObamaCare aren't likely to be mere rough patches that can be easily smoothed over. The provision of health care is an inherently local endeavor, and it increasingly appears that so is applying for health insurance. ObamaCare is an attempt to federalize the entire system, but the IT backbone appears unable to support this political ambition.

In September, the Minnesota state health-insurance exchange inadvertently disclosed several thousand Social Security numbers before the exchange even opened for business. Once the entire, gargantuan system is fired up nationwide, data leaks are almost a certainty.

That's the thing about technology: Glitches happen. Usually they're annoyances. Now, more than ever, they're going to involve the government and your health.
As Mary Katharine Ham wonders, are all those young people whom Obamacare needs to entice into the system going to be willing to sit still for the websites to work.
Do you see these young people waiting more than 3 seconds for each page of the Maryland exchange to load, much less the 20-40 minutes it seemed to be taking on its best behavior today? If you really want them signing up, make it a three-step process from a smartphone, not a three-hour process from a laptop, coupled with a lengthy customer service call. The Obama team knows all this when it comes to getting elected; not so much when implementing his signature legislation. Not all of those who might sign up tried today and were deterred, but some surely were, and the system as envisioned can’t survive a lot of attrition in this demographic. And, how many young people heard about the problems and will put off signing up until they forget? Today was the day Jennifer Hudson et al. were pitching, and today was a bust.
And as these glitches continue, the case that the Republicans are making to delay implementation of Obamacare may indeed start to resonate.
ven a vague knowledge of why the GOP steered the government into this cul-de-sac might warm the public to the Republican cause. Democrats must be even more fearful, then, of the “Obamacare” health insurance exchanges rollout.

“Of the 14 states and Washington D.C. that have their own exchanges, only four — Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Colorado and Washington, D.C. — appeared to be up and ready for business between 9:30 and 10:30 a.m.,” Bloomberg reported.

“Obamacare Exchanges Not Working As Planned,” blared a headline from the Associated Press.

Even MSNBC, an unlikely source to be sure, featured an anchor attempting to demonstrate how the exchanges work in a prerecorded package report. The anchor became so frustrated with the process that she simply gave up.

All this suggests to the marginally tuned-in voter that the GOP might have been onto something with their last minute efforts to derail the ACA. Presuming the Republicans in Congress do not undermine their own message – an effort which POLITICO reports is well underway – the GOP may find a way out of the corner that they have painted themselves into.

As the Obamacare rollout lives up to what many suspected would be an imperfect implementation period, Republicans who forced a government shutdown may be partially vindicated.