This probably wasn’t the way President Obama wanted the first week of his signature policy initiative to go.
The health-care law’s new online marketplaces, or “exchanges,” stumbled out of the block last week as reports of long wait times, stalled websites, and repeated error messages popped up across the country. Not only were most users unable to purchase the individual-market plans offered for the first time on October 1, but various bugs and glitches prevented visitors from even getting onto the sites meant to sell them — especially the federally run marketplaces set up for the 26 states not running their own. The Obama administration has been shifty about both the cause of the sites’ sluggishness as well as the total enrollment numbers up to this point, which has only added to the embarrassment around the unveiling.
Here are some of the biggest “fails” from both the federal and state-run sites from the past week:
1. 99 Percent of Obamacare Applications Hit a Wall Nearly every application on the federal exchanges either failed to sufficiently submit the necessary information or was inadequately processed due to issues with the website and its software. Several health-insurance industry sources told CNBC that as few as 1 in 100 applications on the site contain enough information for someone to enroll. This flub could result in large numbers of would-be enrollees believing they’ve signed up for a plan for next year. One data-company CEO dismissed claims that the glitches were due to high traffic: “This is not a traffic issue. Right now, the systems aren’t working.”
2. Media’s Favorite Obamacare Enrollee Didn’t Actually Enroll Chad Henderson drew tons of attention from top media outlets when the Obama administration identified him as a successful enrollee on the federal exchanges, only for it to be revealed by his father that he did not, in fact, enroll. Reason’s Peter Suderman tracked down the elder Henderson, who was surprised by the news of his son’s supposed accomplishment. Chad, a 21-year-old Georgia resident, was also discovered to be an Obama and OFA volunteer, and even said on his Facebook page that he was paid quarterly “to post political stuff as ‘advocacy,’” which he later said was just a joke. Henderson tried to clarify that by “enroll” he meant that he had submitted an application without actually picking a plan, and blamed the media for not understanding what he meant. Reporters had seized on Henderson’s story because they could not track down anyone else who’d successfully enrolled on the federal exchanges.
3. Shutdown During Off-Peak Weekend Hours The Department of Health and Human Services announced on Friday, just four days after its launch, that the federal site would be unavailable during off-peak hours throughout the weekend in order to address several glitches.
4. MSNBC Anchor Can’t Access Obamacare Exchange On the morning of the exchange’s rollout, MSNBC’s Mara Schiavocampo ran into problems many people across the country were experiencing: online error messages, long wait times, and sitting on hold for extended periods of time when she called for customer support. “If I were signing up for myself, this is where my patience would be exhausted,” she said before she eventually gave up.
5. Arkansas Kick-Off Event Resorts to Paper Applications Two hundred visitors to the University of Arkansas School of Public Health’s opening event for the state’s federally run health-care exchange were forced to take up pen and paper because the website wasn’t working. “You go through all this training for this, and then you can’t put it in action, so it’s frustrating,” one Obamacare “navigator” told the state’s Southwest Times Record.
6. Woman Who Stood Behind Obama on Marketplace Rollout Date: Website “Not So Great” Jean Beigel, one of the handful of people selected to flank President Obama during his remarks about the exchanges on their October 1 launch date, told the Washington Post she had given up on trying to sign up for coverage for the moment, after two failed attempts, because of the website’s slow loading time. She described the process as “a little confusing” and “not so great.”
7. California Overstates Web Traffic to Site Covered California trumpeted evidence of the site’s popularity, or at least what it thought was evidence of popularity. State officials said Day One had seen 5 million hits to the site, before having to walk back the number to a much lower 645,000. A spokesperson said “someone misspoke” in the initial announcement.