The Campaign Spot

Who’s Up for Another Round of Obamacare Train Wrecks?

From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

Obamacare Implementation Isn’t Getting Better as the Deadline Approaches

Who’s up for another round of Obamacare train wrecks?


Nearly half of callers to California’s health insurance exchange in February and March couldn’t get through and abandoned their call, state figures show.

Those service woes could worsen as more people try to beat the March 31 deadline to get Obamacare coverage under the Affordable Care Act…

On the service front, [Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California] said the exchange has been able to reduce wait times on the phone from about 50 minutes to 30 minutes. The state has hired more call-center workers and added phone capacity in preparation for a last-minute rush.

Still, less than 5% of calls are answered within 30 seconds and about a third of callers get a busy signal, state data show. Overall, 40% of exchange customers surveyed said they found the enrollment process difficult.


By some measures Oregon has among the most dysfunctional online insurance exchanges in the nation. Only about 50,000 people in Oregon have signed up for a commercial insurance plan through the exchange, well below the state’s goal, according to federal estimates. And almost all of those people enrolled using paper applications or with help from an insurance professional because the website had been so unreliable.

On Thursday, a grim-faced Mr. Kitzhaber released a new report, commissioned by the state with a private company, that underscored how systemic Oregon’s failure has been. The report found fault not only with the code-writers at Oracle, the software company contracted to build the site, but also with the state managers who overlooked or minimized repeated warnings that the system they had asked Oracle to build was too complex…

With a March 31 deadline for first-year enrollment looming, the online exchange, Cover Oregon, is still unable to process an applicant from start to finish without help or paperwork.

In an interview, Mr. Kitzhaber, who is running for a fourth term this fall, said he had no doubt that Cover Oregon and its struggles would be “the issue” in the campaign. “There’s a lot of frustration and anger out there, and there should be,” he said.

But he said he thought that broader Republican attacks on the Affordable Care Act itself — a script likely to be followed in elections around the nation — would not find as receptive an audience in Oregon, with its strong Democratic base.

“What happened in Oregon is not a policy failure, it’s technology failure,” he said.

This just handed to me: A technology failure is still a failure. And it happened on Kitzhaber’s watch. Oregon voters have absolutely no reason to trust the guy who allowed the current existing “systemic failure” to be the guy to fix it.


Anyone who attempted to sign up for health insurance with Nevada’s failed insurance exchange will have another 60 days to complete the process.

The Silver State Health Insurance Exchange Board action on Thursday leaves the door open for tens if not hundreds of thousands of people to reapply after open enrollment ends March 31.

Officials say up to 300,000 people may have tried over the past six months to choose a plan over Nevada Health Link but were thwarted by program errors in the system designed by Xerox.

Only about 22,000 people have successfully enrolled and paid for policies since the exchange went live Oct. 1.

So… are any of the old deadlines still in effect?


A former manager at a market-research firm in Los Angeles, Rosenthal, 57, paid for his own health insurance. Last fall, when his plan was discontinued because it didn’t meet standards set by the Affordable Care Act, Rosenthal bought the best insurance coverage he could find, a top-tier “platinum” policy from Blue Shield of California that costs $792 a month. He figured it would provide access to top hospitals. Then in February he learned the plan wouldn’t cover the hospitals where he was used to being treated.

Rosenthal is one of millions of Americans who have purchased insurance under the Affordable Care Act and are discovering that many of the new plans offer a narrow network of doctors and facilities. “If I had anything happen, I wouldn’t want to go to a hospital that I’m not familiar with and with doctors I don’t know,” he says…

In addition to having fewer options, buyers are making decisions about which plans to buy based on incomplete or misleading information, says Karen Pollitz, senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health policy research group. “Consumers have a very limited ability to shop in advance and evaluate provider networks,” she says.

What would we have to see for Democrats to label Obamacare a failure? Plagues? Mad scientists? Giant radioactive lizards stomping across the landscape?


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