Beware the Obamacare concern trolls

Ezra Klein

While it was a coincidence that the Obamacare insurance exchange website launched on October 1, the same day the partial federal government shutdown began, there have been few coincidences since. It is thus no twist of fate that many prominent liberals seem to be worried that the GOP is wasting an opportunity to criticize the failure of the exchange roll-out. This is concern trolling at its transparent worst.

The most blatant example comes from a usual source of concern trolling, Ezra Klein at the Washington Post. In a “Wonkblog” piece titled “Five thoughts on the Obamacare disaster” (bait deployed), the first three of those “thoughts” are overt criticisms of the law and its implementation so far (bait taken). Then Klein gets to the GOP’s “missed opportunity” (reeling in):

Their decision to shut down the government on the exact day the health-care law launched was a miracle for the White House. If Republicans had simply passed a clean-CR on Oct. 1 these last few weeks would’ve been nothing — nothing at all — save for coverage of the health-care law’s disaster. Instead the law has been knocked off the front page by coverage of the Republican Party’s disaster.

Covered California’s ObamaCare Exchange Fail

Covered California fail

The San Jose Mercury News reported this weekend that two weeks after the now infamous debacle that was the ObamaCare exchange rollout, California’s new pride and joy still doesn’t offer a way to find out which doctors and hospitals are included in each health plan:

The website tool designed to help shoppers cross-reference tens of thousands of doctors and hundreds of hospitals that belong to the networks of Covered California’s 12 insurance providers finally launched last week after earlier promises that it would be available on Oct. 1, the day similar exchanges opened for business nationwide under the new federal health care law.

But when it finally appeared on Tuesday, a hard-to-find online tool was only in place about 48 hours before it was removed from the site because of what exchange officials called “uneven” performance.

Hmmm.  This is the same “Covered California” that cost $313 million to develop, funded almost entirely with federal taxpayer dollars (thank you, everyone not living in CA).  The same site that originally boasted of 5 million hits on launch day, only to later admit that the real number was actually 645,000.  The same folks who described the overstatement of nearly 4.5 million hits as an “error,” “the result of an internal miscommunication,” and the always golden “someone misspoke.”

Maryland to scrap $126 million Obamacare exchange website

The spectacular failures of Maryland’s $125 million Obamacare exchange system and website, much of which was paid for through grants from the Obama administration, has led state officials to scrap it and start over, according to a report the Washington Post:

Maryland officials are set to replace the state’s online health-insurance exchange with technology from Connecticut’s insurance marketplace, according to two people familiar with the decision, an acknowledgment that a system that has cost at least $125.5 million is broken beyond repair.

The board of the Maryland exchange plans to vote on the change Tuesday, the day after the end of the first enrollment period for the state’s residents under the 2010 Affordable Care Act.
As of last Saturday, 49,293 Maryland residents had enrolled in a private plan through the exchange, far short of the state’s original goal of 150,000 enrollments and shy even of its revised estimate of 75,000 to 100,000.

Some of the hardware that Maryland bought for its system, such as servers, can be salvaged, but the software and coding that are the guts of its online marketplace will be replaced, said the individuals familiar with the decision.

New contractor’s history rife with tech problems, ethical issues

The new contractor for the federal Obamacare exchange,, comes with a sketchy history, according to a weekend report from the Washington Post, one filled with technical problems and allegations of ethical issues.

In January, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) fired CGI Federal, the contractor initially tasked with the construction of, including the website and backend systems, after the disastrous rollout. The department tasked with implementing the law tapped Accenture to take over the project, bypassing the competitive bidding process.

Though the change in contractors is a sign that the administration is “doing something” to get past the botched rollout of, the Washington Post explains that Accenture has a history of problems with state and federal contractors (emphasis added):

Accenture, the contractor urgently tapped to help fix the federal health-insurance Web site, is a favorite of corporate America but has a record that includes troubled projects and allegations of ethical lapses, a review of the consulting giant’s history shows.

Biggest Stories of 2013: The Great Obamacare Meltdown of 2013

Throughout New Year’s Eve, we’ll be going through the 10 biggest political stories of 2013 as selected by United Liberty’s contributors. Don’t forget to chime in on the biggest stories of the year on our Facebook page.


In late September many pundits, including a good number of conservatives, criticized Sen. Ted Cruz’s marathon anti-Obamacare speech, saying it showed that Republicans were out of touch with the masses and were extreme.

Little did they know that within weeks Cruz’s speech would be all but forgotten, overshadowed by a rollout failure of epic proportions.

As soon as the website launched October 1, massive problems were evident.

A few of the problems with Affordable Care Act implementation:

  • The website was almost completely inaccessible for most of October.
  • Website security left enrollees’ personal information vulnerable to hackers.
  • Premium payments were double-drafted for some Washington state enrollees.
  • Over 6 million individual policies have been cancelled to date, nationwide.
  • Even Bronze-level plans have been deemed unaffordable by the government in some locales.
  • As many as 1/3 of people who signed up may not have had their enrollment information sent to insurers.

Organizing For America’s Obamacare publicity campaign, #GetCovered, has been the laughingstock of social media, with each round of propaganda more outrageous than the last.

Obamacare website price tag: $319 million and likely growing

During congressional testimony on Wednesday, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius gave some insight into the cost to build the federal Obamacare exchange website, The price tag for the dysfunctional website? $319 million, and that may only be the tip of the iceberg when it’s all said and done:

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Wednesday said the information technology costs for the website totaled $677 million through the end of October.

The HHS has only spent $319 million of that amount so far, Sebelius testified in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, but commitments to contractors and government officials could reach $677 million if the agency makes good on all of its obligations.

Sebelius has hinted that the Health agency could seek to withhold some payments to contractors due to the poor performance of the website.

The problems with the website have been well-documented. The glitches and errors that users experienced was related to poor enrollment numbers, far below what the Obama Administration had predicted. deadline passes to downplayed expectations

The Obama Administration’s self-imposed deadline to fix the disastrous federal Obamacare exchange,, has come and gone, though, it may be a few days to determine whether or not users can access the site without errors and whether insurers are getting correct information.

The administration promised in late October, due to the political firestorm had developed, that the website would working by December 1. But officials have since played down expectations, saying that a “vast majority” of users would be able access the website without problems. Even that has been seen as a best-case scenario.

The White House is, of course, sending mixed messages about expectations. While officials insisted they met their goals in the days leading up to the deadline, they’ve also acknowledged that the website won’t be fully functional. The line being given is that it “will work much better than it did in October.”

“Uh oh”: Obamacare website crashes in public on Kathleen Sebelius crashes on Sebelius

Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius visited Miami on Tuesday to meet Obamacare “navigators,” those tasked with providing assistance to people who want to sign up for a health plan on the exchanges, when the federal Obamacare website,, crashed on someone trying to enroll: (emphasis added):

Sebelius, wearing green, walked through the front doors of North Shore Hospital near Miami Shores where she shook hands with hospital staff and members of the Epilepsy Foundation who are staffing the Obamacare Navigation center housed off the hospital’s lobby. There she met with the team helping South Floridians to sign-up on line or on paper.

“So she is being helpful,” asked the secretary to a couple sitting at one table of a navigator. “Absolutely,” they responded.

At a second table, the secretary met Carmen Salero who was trying to sign up online.  As the secretary and Salero made small talk, CBS4′s Brian Andrews noticed the site crash on the lap top in front of them.

“The screen says I’m sorry but the system is temporarily down,” Andrews pointed out.  “Uh oh,” responded the secretary.  “That happens every day,” said Salerno, “it must mean a lot of people are on there trying to get coverage.”

Well, that’s embarrassing.

Congressional Democrats, aides panicked about Obamacare

President Barack Obama isn’t just struggling with falling approval ratings and rising public opposition to Obamacare. The Hill reported yesterday that he’s also finding growing concern among congressional Democrats and their aides who are worried that the botched rollout of the law could hurt the party (emphasis added):

President Obama’s relationship with congressional Democrats has worsened to an unprecedented low, Democratic aides say.

They are letting it be known that House and Senate Democrats are increasingly frustrated, bitter and angry with the White House over ObamaCare’s botched rollout, and that the president’s mea culpa in a news conference last week failed to soothe any ill will.

Sources who attended a meeting of House chiefs of staff on Monday say the room was seething with anger over the immense damage being done to the Democratic Party and talk was of scrapping rollout events for the Affordable Care Act.

“Here we are, we’re supposed to be selling this to people, and it’s all screwed up,” one chief of staff ranted. “This either gets fixed or this could be the demise of the Democratic Party.

“It’s probably the worst I’ve ever seen it,” the aide said of the recent mood on Capitol Hill. “It’s bad. It’s really bad.”

Oregon hasn’t enrolled anyone through Obamacare exchange

Cover Oregon

More than a month after the launch of its Obamacare exchange, Cover Oregon has yet to enroll anyone into a government-approved health plan, despite receiving $59 million from the federal government to assist with implementation of the law:

Despite grand ambitions, an early start, millions of dollars from the federal government and a tech-savvy population, Oregon’s online enrollment system still isn’t ready more than a month after it was supposed to go live. The state has resorted to hiring or reassigning 400 people to process insurance applications by hand.

“We’re all surprised and frustrated that we’re in the position that we’re in now,” said Jesse O’Brien, a health care advocate at the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group, which lobbied for the exchange.

The state has received about 18,000 paper applications, at 19 pages each, and is scrambling to manually file and clear them. State officials have not been able to say when they expect the online system to launch, nor have they established a deadline to submit paper applications in order for coverage to begin Jan. 1. Meanwhile, the exchange’s board is demanding answers from the executive director about when the website will work and how his team will get people enrolled on time.

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