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The Seven Big Hurdles for Obamacare in the Next Five Months



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From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

The Seven Big Hurdles for Obamacare in the Next Five Months

As we track the continuing problems of the Obamacare site, and the continuing promises that it will be all fixed in a jiffy, please remember that the initial explanation from the administration, that high traffic was causing the site’s problems, was absolute horsepuckey. And the folks running the site knew that excuse was horsepuckey:

On Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that a trial run of Healthcare.gov days before its launch crashed the site with a just a few hundred users online.

Despite the problems, federal health officials proceeded with the planned rollout, according to the newspaper.

The result? The website crashed shortly after midnight as several thousand people tried to start the process, two people familiar with the project told the Post.

With every promise, pledge, and earnest declaration to come, remember that this administration’s first response to the website’s failure was to lie, to lie, to lie, and then lie some more. Maybe Jeffrey Zients, the administration official now running the cleanup effort, is more honest than the other folks. His explanations of the problems certainly seem more detailed and inexplicably optimistic than previous statements from the administration. (The “punch list” of needed fixes has more than 100 problems.)

But the temptation for happy talk and excessively optimisitic assessments is a powerful one in this administration, and we must also keep in mind the website is only one of at least seven big obstacles that the administration needs to overcome by March 31:

1: The site has to work. Believe it or not, this is the easiest one.

Really, it is, even though it doesn’t seem like it, even late Sunday night:

A data center critical for allowing uninsured Americans to buy health coverage under President Barack Obama’s healthcare law went down on Sunday, halting online enrollment for all 50 states in the latest problem to hit the program’s troubled rollout.

The data center operated by Verizon’s Terremark experienced a connectivity issue that caused it to shut down, affecting the federal government’s already problem-plagued online marketplace Healthcare.gov and similar sites operated by 14 states and the District of Columbia, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Administration and company officials could not say how long it would take to fix the connectivity problem.

As of 7:15 this morning, I was hitting the “we have a lot of visitors on the site right now. Please stay on this page” web page.

2: People have to decide to log in, overcoming A) people’s disinterest in thinking about health insurance any more than they have to and B) people’s natural tendency to procrastinate.

3: They have to not be overwhelmed or repelled by sticker shock. This is the big one, and there are already very ominous indicators for the administration:

Thousands of Californians are discovering what Obamacare will cost them — and many don’t like what they see.

These middle-class consumers are staring at hefty increases on their insurance bills as the overhaul remakes the healthcare market. Their rates are rising in large part to help offset the higher costs of covering sicker, poorer people who have been shut out of the system for years . . . 

Pam Kehaly, president of Anthem Blue Cross in California, said she received a recent letter from a young woman complaining about a 50% rate hike related to the healthcare law.

“She said, ‘I was all for Obamacare until I found out I was paying for it,’” Kehaly said.

Nearly 2 million Californians have individual insurance, and several hundred thousand of them are losing their health plans in a matter of weeks.

Wouldn’t you love to meet the woman who wrote, “’I was all for Obamacare until I found out I was paying for it”? Ma’am, this is what happens when you refuse to listen to anything the Republicans say. I don’t want to scream at you for being foolish, ignorant, closed-minded and so on, but . . . really, this is what the whole fight for the past couple years has been about. And you really could have and should have paid a little more attention to all this.

Note that the uninsured are used to paying $0.00 for their insurance, so their measuring stick of what’s “expensive” is probably going to be lower than those who have paid premiums for years.

4. The site has to accurately calculate whether the applicant qualifies for Medicaid or any federal subsidies.

5. The data that gets sent to the insurance companies has to be accurate.

6. Enough people who do choose to buy have to be young and healthy.

7. There have to be no major security breaches during this time, or else people will refuse to use the site.

One expression of concern:

Rep. Mike Rogers on Sunday decried the state of cyber security of the new Obamacare website, warning the private information of applicants is at risk.

“It was very clear to me in the hearing that (the websites) do not have an overarching solid cyber security plan to prevent the loss of private information,” the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I’m even more concerned today than I was even last week.”

Even though government officials have claimed no private information is stored, the Michigan Republican said the system has to store an application at some point and “and that’s a lot of your very personal information.”

Wait, there’s more:

Yesterday’s congressional hearing on Obamacare’s faulty Web site gave CGI and the other federal contractors a chance to explain themselves. Instead, we saw a lot of finger-pointing and blame-shifting. One particularly egregious moment had QSSI Executive Vice President Andy Slavitt downplaying his company’s responsibility for securing the information in his system.

“Our systems don’t hold data,” he quibbled. “They just transport data through it.”

“You don’t have to hold it to protect it,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) fired back.

In Slavitt’s defense, data security may not have been an explicit feature of QSSI’s federal contract. But the fact that he thought this dodge would fly says a lot about executives who work with some of the nation’s most sensitive digital infrastructure. They just aren’t equipped to understand the weaknesses that make their systems vulnerable to cyberattacks.

Wait, there’s still more!

According to several online security experts, Healthcare.gov, the portal where consumers in 35 states are being directed to obtain affordable health coverage, has a coding problem that could allow hackers to deploy a technique called”clickjacking,” where invisible links are planted on a legitimate web page. Using this scheme, hackers could trick users into giving up personal data as they enter it into the web site, potentially placing Americans at risk of identity theft or allowing fraudsters to file bogus health care claims. And it’s not just the federal exchange that has security problems. Some of the 15 states that have established their own online exchanges aren’t using standard encryption throughout their Obamacare websites — leaving user information at risk.

That last report was from the notorious, anti-Obamacare right-wingers at . . . er, Mother Jones.

If all of that goes right, Obamacare won’t collapse entirely. Good luck, fellas!


Tags: Obamacare


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