The Campaign Spot

Obamacare’s Early Reviews: ‘Incompetence’, ‘a Nightmare’

The Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt is long and busy: a look at Steve Lonegan’s improving, but still long, odds in New Jersey; the stalemate-inducing strategies in the shutdown fight; a portion of federal land that the Obama administration doesn’t dare shut off, and the early reviews for the Obamacare rollout:

USA Today on Obamacare’s Rollout: ‘Incompetence… an Epic Screw-Up.’

The editors of USA Today are unimpressed with the administration’s web skills:

Over the first four days the new online health insurance exchanges were open last week, more than 8 million people visited them, according to the Obama administration. At the very least, this casts doubt on the Republican claim that Americans hate Obamacare and want it repealed. It seems millions of people desperately want the coverage the law will allow them to get, regardless of their medical histories.

Alas, the administration managed to turn the experience for most of those visitors into a nightmare. Websites crashed, refused to load, or offered bizarre and incomprehensible choices. Even though the system was shut down for repairs over the weekend, Monday’s early reports continued to suggest an epic screw-up.

They’re being a little generous in that first paragraph, as we shouldn’t be that surprised to see a site get 8 million hits (i.e., a good afternoon for the Drudge Report) for something that every American is now legally required to purchase. (You’re not required to purchase through that web site, but you are required to be insured or to pay an extra tax that they insisted at the time of passage wasn’t a tax.)

But that editorial gets better:

Park said the administration expected 50,000 to 60,000 simultaneous users. It got 250,000. Compare that with the similarly rocky debut seven years ago of exchanges to obtain Medicare drug coverage. The Bush administration projected 20,000 simultaneous users and built capacity for 150,000.

That’s the difference between competence and incompetence.

Bush administration, competent; Obama administration, incompetent. That one is going to sting in the West Wing.

Say it with me: It’s not just the software:

“I think there’s growing consensus that it’s not just volume,” said Caroline Pearson, a vice president at the consulting firm Avalere Health who focuses on the healthcare law. — the main portal for consumers in 36 states to compare their coverage options — was taken offline for maintenance over the weekend and was scheduled to come down for repairs again at 1 a.m. Tuesday.

… But a source close to the insurance industry said things aren’t looking good so far. State and federal systems appear to have problems communicating with each other, and insurers aren’t confident in the accuracy of subsidy calculations for the few consumers getting that far in the process.

“It just sounds like a nightmare,” the source said.

What’s more, they insisted they were ready:

Administration officials said they had relied heavily on contractors to build and operate the federal exchanges, under supervision of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. In the weeks before the marketplaces opened for business, those contractors expressed high optimism that their computer systems would work.

The prime contractor for the federal exchange — CGI Federal, a unit of the CGI Group, based in Montreal — and the company operating a “data services hub” for the government — Quality Software Services Inc., a unit of the UnitedHealth Group — told Congress at a hearing on Sept. 10 that they were ready for a surge of users when enrollment opened on Oct. 1.

The Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress, said that CGI had received $88 million for work on the federal exchange through March, while Quality Software Services had received $55 million for work on the data hub. The hub allows exchanges to get information about a person’s income and citizenship from the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies.

CGI Federal’s web site and slogans:


Their site and are really shaking my faith in the confident smiles of people in stock photography splash page illustrations.

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