The Corner

‘Tech Experts: Health Exchange Site Needs Total Overhaul’

Now that the shutdown is over, we can fully focus on the disaster that the Obamacare rollout has been and still is. Reporting on the issue, USA Today provides the following insights from tech experts:

The federal health care exchange was built using 10-year-old technology that may require constant fixes and updates for the next six months and the eventual overhaul of the entire system, technology experts told USA TODAY.

“The application could be fundamentally flawed,” said Jeff Kim, president of CDNetworks, a content-delivery network. “They may be using 1990s technology in 2.0 world.”

 . . .

The site could be perfect, but if the systems from which it draws data are not up to speed, it doesn’t matter, said John Engates, chief technology officer at Rackspace, a cloud computer service provider.

“It is a core problem in the sense of it’s fundamental to this thing actually working, but it’s not necessarily a problem that the people who wrote HealthCare.gov can get to,” Engates said. “Even if they had a perfect system, it still won’t work.” […]

 I think it’s a data problem,” Kim said. “It always comes down to that.”

And if that’s the case, the problems are beyond “rocky,” he said. Instead, it would require a “fundamental re-architecture.” In the meantime, “I think they’re just trying to shore up as quickly as possible. They don’t have time to start from scratch.” […]

Engates said he believes most of the problems are caused by systems integration with other sites, such as the IRS. And that could be causing some of the problems people see as they make it past the initial application process. It’s a series of questions meant to verify a person’s identity and income. But after that questionnaire, visitors often encounter a series of error messages, or the page a person tries to click to doesn’t come up. The data requests to other sites could be causing those problems, Engates said, which would mean the problem isn’t with the HHS site itself.

The whole thing is here.

You should also read this interesting post by Bob Laszewski of Health Care Policy and Marketplace Review:

My sense is that the feds, based upon the number of enrollments they have sent to the insurance companies, enrolled about 10,000 people in the first week (about 5,000 single and family contracts) and another 10,000 people in the second week in the 36 states using the federal exchange.

The Washington Post earlier this week cited estimates that the number was about 36,000 the first week using a web analysis firm’s review of traffic. My estimates are based upon hard numbers from high market share plans then projected over the entire 36-state federal market. . . .

Most states running their own exchanges aren’t doing a whole lot better.

New York says they have “enrolled” 100,000 people. But when pressed on that in a CNBC interview Tuesday, that state’s director clarified that to mean 100,000 people have set up accounts and applied to know what their subsidies are. She refused to say how many people have gone the rest of the way to actually buy a plan. Reports from consumers trying to use the exchange in New York continue to indicate difficulty being able to navigate the site. 

He also explains that Washington State is off to a much better start. And he has a section on the roughly 16 million people who are now receiving letters from their insurance companies saying that contra the promise that was made to them by the president, they are losing their current coverage and need to re-enroll, at a higher rate, of course.

The U.S. individual health insurance market currently totals about 19 million people. Because the Obama administration’s regulations on grandfathering existing plans were so stringent about 85% of those, 16 million, are not grandfathered and must comply with Obamacare at their next renewal. The rules are very complex. For example, if you had an individual plan in March of 2010 when the law was passed and you only increased the deductible from $1,000 to $1,500 in the years since, your plan has lost its grandfather status and it will no longer be available to you when it would have renewed in 2014.

These 16 million people are now receiving letters from their carriers saying they are losing their current coverage and must re-enroll in order to avoid a break in coverage and comply with the new health law’s benefit mandates––the vast majority by January 1. Most of these will be seeing some pretty big rate increases.

Unfortunately for these people if they are not in a state with a functioning exchange (Washington State, Nevada, Colorado, and Kentucky), they can’t really figure out what their options are or what premiums they will face.

Veronique de Rugy is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

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