I love the smell of hubris in the morning.......Healthcare.gov will be working really well by .... wait for it .... 2017 ? Saying 2017 now is like moving the goalposts to a Stadium in another State , right ?
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A crucial weekend for the troubled website that is the backbone of President Barack Obama's healthcare overhaul appears to be off to a shaky start, as the U.S. government took the site offline for an unusually long maintenance period into Saturday morning.
CNN Tests "Fixed" Obamacare Website And... It Crashes
Submitted by Tyler Durden on 12/01/2013 18:04 -0500
'If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it's free.'
- P.J. O'Rourke
If CNN was doing its best this morning to prove that the second coming of healthcare.gov is fixed, it... failed.
GEORGE HOWELL, HOST: We know the first thing you have to do when you go to this website you have to select your state. Is that working?ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And what's funny is I was talking with Matt, and, yeah, that seemed to work, right, when you logged on. But then came the road blocks. So tell me about what happened, because we're getting another error message here, and it's supposed to be running smoothly. We’re just not seeing that.MATT SLOANE, CNN MEDICAL PRODUCER: Yeah, so, you know, we've been trying to get into the site since October 1 on and off again. I have to say it did work a lot more smoothly this morning. I got through. I picked my state. I put in all of my information and I got through the whole process in eight minutes. And then it said my status was in progress. So I went to refresh it and I got the error message.
But fear not. According to David Plouffe, 2008 campaign manager for Barack Obama, Obamacare "will work reall well"... by 2017. To wit:
This program was designed to be implemented by the states. And in most of the states it is going quite well. You talked about Medicaid expansion. I think it's just a fact, and it may take until 2017 when this president leaves office, you're going to see almost every state in this country running their own exchanges eventually and expanding Medicaid. And I think it'll work really well, then.
Video: Relaunch of most embarrassing gov’t website ever going about as well as you’d think
POSTED AT 3:31 PM ON DECEMBER 1, 2013 BY ED MORRISSEY
According to Fox News Sunday, the new Healthcare.gov site has not quite achieved the promised “fully functional” status by the November 30th deadline. In fact, the site still can’t verify identities for potential enrollees, which means that consumers can’t be sure they’re seeing the right information for coverage options. After forty-two months of development and nine weeks of futility and failure, this isn’t exactly a confidence-builder (via The Weekly Standard):
“Federal officials promised that healthcare.gov would work smoothly for a vast majority of users starting today. But that has not been the case so far because this morning the critical verification system is unavailable. That’s the system that confirms identities and makes sure people are receiving proper coverage information.“And applications cannot be submitted without this ant step. The site says this particular problem should be solved within 24 hours. And there is another error much earlier in the process as well. When the site asks if an insurance agent or navigator is assisting you with your application. Ater clicking none of these people are offering any guidance, the next screen incorrectly displays a message declaring the opposite. The banner says, you told us another person is helping you.“Furthermore, an address associated with healthcare.gov has sent several erroneous e-mails this morning with an alert suggesting that logging in at the website will reveal a new message, however no message ever appeared. Officials have said November 30th was not a magical relaunch date for healthcare.gov, and that like any site, they predict there will be times moving forward when it does not perform optimally.”
A “magical relaunch date”? That was the administration’s initial promise — that all of the bugs would be worked out by December 1, a deadline that is more than just an arbitrary date on the calendar. In order to meet their January 1 deadline for the individual mandate, the site has to be able to enroll millions of people no later than December 23rd — and then the back-end issues have to be fixed, and an entire subsidy payment system launched to ensure that the coverage actually takes effect for those enrolled through Healthcare.gov.
If they still can’t get the front end to verify an enrollee’s identity, just imagine the status of the 834 transmission and subsidy payment infrastructure. And this is after a month-long push to fix these very problems.
Obama Administration Admits "There Is More Work To Be Done" As Healthcare.gov Relaunches
Submitted by Tyler Durden on 12/01/2013 11:05 -0500
While even the most naive private sector cyber-experts knew well in advance that an effective rewrite of Obamacare's 500 million lines of code would take a "little longer" than the month promised by the government in advance of the November 30 fix deadline, the Obama administration went ahead with its much touted healthcare.gov relaunch anyway. The results have been mixed.
The WSJ quotes Obama administration officials who said Sunday there has been "dramatic progress" in fixing HealthCare.gov but acknowledged "there is more work to be done" in improving the site and its underlying technology and that technicians for the site said they will not be able to fix all the glitches by the deadline.
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services officials released an eight-page report Sunday morning offering a few details of progress in fixing the site, which crashed shortly after its launch Oct. 1.The site now allows 50,000 people to use it at the same time, according to the report, and wait times for Internet pages to load have dropped from 8 seconds to less than a second. More than 400 fixes have been made to the site."The bottom line, HealthCare.gov on Dec. 1 is night and day from where it was on Oct. 1," said Jeffrey Zients, the Obama aide tasked with fixing the technical mess, in a call with reporters.
Ironically, if Obamacare ends up being the success Obama has portrayed it as since day one, and traffic to the website surges (as is needed for Obamacare to become financially viable as opposed to just stop showing 404 screens), it is likely that it will crash once again. CMS representative Julie Bataille cautioned, “If there are extraordinary high spikes in traffic, which exceed the site’s capacity, consumers will be put in a new advance queuing system that will give them an expected wait time, or allow them to be notified via email when they can return to the site." Aka: F5.
That said, assuming the website is indeed finally fixed, it is clear who should be thanked: Google and Oracle. "Contractors and outside engineers from Google Inc. and Oracle Corp. brought in by Obama administration officialshave been working overtime over the past five weeks to try to fix the site and its underlying technology, including systems that send information and payments to insurers. Administration officials say they installed fixes this weekend to address erroneous customer data that have been sent to insurers. They won't know if that issue has been fixed until more consumers get through the enrollment process and more customer data is sent to insurers, said Julie Bataille, a CMS spokeswoman."
In other words, you have to sign up for Obamacare, to find out not only what's in it and what your premiums will be, but if it has even been fixed.
Finally, those still confused about the enrollment process, will get some much needed clarity from the flowchart below.
New plan on Healthcare.gov: Declare victory … and fix it later
POSTED AT 12:31 PM ON NOVEMBER 30, 2013 BY ED MORRISSEY
Well, I guess it beats explaining why the Obama administration failed to meet yet another of its deadlines in getting a 42-month web-portal project to work. According to the Washington Post, the White House will announce tomorrow that the Healthcare.gov site has been fixed, even though the site won’t actually be fixed — not even by the administration’s own metrics:
Administration officials are preparing to announce Sunday that they have met their Saturday deadline for improving HealthCare.gov, according to government officials, in part by expanding the site’s capacity so that it can handle 50,000 users at once. But they have yet to meet all their internal goals for repairing the federal health-care site, and it will not become clear how many consumers it can accommodate until more people try to use it.As of Friday night, federal officials and contractors had achieved two goals, according to government officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss ongoing operations. They had increased the system’s capacity and reduced errors. On the other hand, the site’s pages do not load as fast as they want, officials said, and they are working to ensure that large numbers of consumers can enter the site.An official at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency overseeing the federal health insurance exchange, said the site’s true capacity is somewhat murky because workers need to see how it performs under “weekday traffic volumes” when demand is at its peak.
What exactly constitutes success? Jeffrey Zients declared a month ago that the web portal would be “fully functional” by tomorrow. This past week, though, Kathleen Sebelius moved the goalposts about 80 yards by promising only that consumers would “have a significantly different user experience by the end of this month.” The Post splits the difference, although noting that the White House has been slippery on what exactly constitutes success:
Administration officials have said for several weeks they define success as having “the vast majority of users” be able to navigate the site and sign up for insurance. While they initially did not define what that meant, White House press secretary Jay Carney said earlier this month that the administration’s aim was to have 80 percent of users enroll through the site. Those working on the project have set speed and error rates as a way of measuring that goal.
Industry observers are less than impressed with the new metrics for success:
However, problems continue to plague the system, and technology experts question if the fixes being deployed by a team of government workers, outside contractors and specialists can get it functioning smoothly as soon as Saturday.Luke Chung, president of Virginia-based software developer FMS Inc., called the administration’s prediction that HealthCare.gov would work at 80% capacity on or around November 30 an impractical threshold in the software world.“I don’t know how to build something that’s only 80% complete,” Chung told CNN. “I don’t even understand how that works.” …Meanwhile, insurance industry insiders told CNN on condition of not being identified that problems continue with the transmission of data submitted by people signing up for coverage through HealthCare.gov.“There’s no part of us that thinks all of this will be fixed in three days from now,” an industry official said, referring to the November 30 date for the site to run smoothly for most users.
In other words, we’re about to see the second beta release of Healthcare.gov. Don’t you justlove it when software companies use a release as testing for failure thresholds? I guess you can’t find out what’s in Healthcare.gov until you release it … just like a couple of months ago, it seems.
You couldn’t find out overnight, though, because the system was down:
The entire ObamaCare Web site was suddenly taken down for 11 hours — from Friday night into Saturday morning — just before its long-awaited relaunch.Officials said the extended shutdown, which began 9 p.m. Friday, was required to get the site ready to accept double the number of applicants starting Saturday.“We have more upgrades that require more time,” said Aaron Albright, a spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees the problem-plagued portal.The site has been taken down before, but usually only for four hours between 1 and 5 a.m.Even before the unexpected move, health-industry experts were skeptical that the fix that’s supposed to produce a “new and improved” site Saturday would be the game-changer President Obama has promised.
And just how confident is HHS in the fixes? This confident:
“There are 23 shopping days in December [until the deadline for coverage that starts Jan. 1]. No need to rush,” Sebelius advised in an attempt to avoid a panicked rush of the uninsured on Saturday.
Don’t forget that all of this is just to get the front end working. Does the subsidy payment system on the back end even exist yet? If not, then the 23 shopping days are meaningless, because insurers might not provide coverage without full premium payments.
Maybe the White House should declare victory and depart the field altogether.
This Is A Crucial Weekend For The Obamacare Website — And It's Already Going Poorly
Just hours before the Obama administration's self-imposed deadline to get the insurance shopping website working for the "vast majority" of its users by Saturday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that it was taking down the website for an 11-hour period that would end at 8 a.m. EST on Saturday.
It was unclear whether the extended shutdown of the website - about seven hours longer than on typical day - represented a major setback to the Obama administration's high-stakes scramble to fix the portal that it hopes eventually will enroll about 7 million uninsured and under-insured Americans under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
At the very least, the shutdown suggested that nine weeks after the website's disastrous launch on October 1 prevented most applicants from enrolling in coverage and ignited one of the biggest crises of Obama's administration, U.S. officials are nervous over whether Americans will see enough progress in the website to be satisfied.
For the administration and its Democratic allies, the stakes are enormous.
The healthcare overhaul is Obama's signature domestic achievement, a program designed to extend coverage to millions of Americans and reduce healthcare costs. To work, the program must enroll millions of young, healthy consumers whose participation in the new insurance exchanges is key to keeping costs in check.
After weeks of round-the-clock upgrades of software and hardware, Obama officials said they were poised to successfully double its capacity by this weekend, to be able to handle 50,000 insurance shoppers at one time.
But if the website does not work for the "vast majority" of visitors this weekend as the administration has promised, uninsured Americans from 36 states could face problems getting coverage by an initial December 23 deadline.
It also could create ripples that extend to the 2014 elections when control of the U.S. House of Representatives (now controlled by Republicans) and the Senate (now led by Democrats) will be up for grabs.
Obama's fellow Democrats who are up for re-election in Congress already have shown signs of distancing themselves from the president and his healthcare program. If the website does not show significant improvement soon, some Democrats - particularly the dozen U.S. senators who are from states led by conservative Republicans and who are up for re-election next year - might call for extending Obamacare's final March 31 enrollment deadline for 2014.
That would delay the fines that are mandated by the law for those who do not have insurance by that date, a scenario that insurers say would destabilize the market. It also would fuel Republicans' arguments that Obamacare, and its website, are fatally flawed and should be scrapped.
In broader political terms, the website's immediate success has become vital to Obama's credibility, which polls indicate has been tarnished by the site's problems as well as Obama's admission that he overreached in promising that everyone who liked their healthcare plan would be able to keep it under the new law.
Obama has been forced to apologize for oversimplying how the law would affect certain Americans, and has acknowledged being embarrassed and frustrated by the website's failures. Recent polls have shown that Obama's approval ratings are at the lowest point of his presidency.
"It is a lot harder to reboot public trust than it is to reboot software," said David Brailer, chief executive of the Health Evolution Partners private equity firm and a former health official in George W. Bush's administration.
"But the good thing about when you're down is that usually, you got nowhere to go but up," Obama said in an interview that aired on Friday on ABC.
IS IT FIXED? HARD TO TELL
Several technology specialists told Reuters that it will be difficult to independently assess on Saturday whether thesite has met the administration's goals of functioning for most users most of the time, including handling 50,000 users at once.
"There won't be anything you can tell from the outside," said Jonathan Wu, an information technology expert and co-founder of the consumer financial website ValuePenguin.
When the site opened for enrollment on October 1, many users found that they could not complete the simple task of creating an account. Now, the website is functioning better but any remaining problems lie much deeper within the site, Wu said in an interview.
Eleventh-hour checks were not encouraging, said Matthew Hancock, an independent expert in software design who said he could tell within hours of the site's launch that its problems were the results of poor system design and bugs, rather than the heavy traffic that the administration blamed initially.
"I have tested the site every several days trying to buy a health insurance plan, but haven't been able to," Hancock said.
"I think the issues the site faces now are more complex to diagnose from the front end, whereas before the site was immediately failing and returning error details," he said.
Questions also remain about the website's ability to direct payments to private insurance companies when consumers enroll in their plans. Portions of the system handling those functions are still being built, officials say.
"The real tests are: Were my premium payment and subsidy accurately calculated? Am I getting the coverage I signed up for? If my income situation changes, will the reconciliation occur in a timely fashion?" said Rick Howard, a research director at technology consultant Gartner.
A DATE AND A NUMBER
Heading into this weekend, administration officials tasked with rescuing Obamacare showed signs of confidence that the series of fixes by tech specialists would work.
The officials gave a "virtual tour" of what they had branded the "tech surge" to a group of White House reporters.
The White House also invited a group of IT specialists to tour the website's "command center," where an engineer on unpaid leave from Google Inc directs disparate contractors and monitors their progress.
It was a convincing show that the team had the crisis under control, said John Engates, chief technology officer at Rackspace, a web hosting firm in San Antonio, who participated.
Engates, who had been publicly critical of the launch, said he felt it was likely the website would be able to handle 50,000 concurrent users on Saturday, although he did not know for sure.
"Whenever you have a date and a number, you need to be pretty sure that you can hit that date and that number," Engates told Reuters.
"It's just another loss of confidence if you don't make it."
Video: Health insurance company advertises by goofing on Obamacare
POSTED AT 7:01 PM ON NOVEMBER 29, 2013 BY MARY KATHARINE HAM
Say you’re a health insurer who decided not to jump into the exchanges fearing that the colossal Charlie Foxtrot about to visit itself upon the U.S. might not jibe with your branding as a company with the ability to offer a service with a modicum of competence. Say your decision turned out to be quite prescient as the federal exchange (and, to a lesser extent, state exchanges) began to implode before your eyes. Then, say you wanted to produce an ad to attract customers with a nod to your own prescience and competence as compared with the federal exchange.
Behold, the insurance schadenfreude ad, produced by Wellmark, a part of Blue Cross Blue Shield that opted out of exchanges.
“There’s More Than One Place to Buy Health Insurance”
I’m always a fan of an ad that highlights a company’s hesitance to collude with the government. It allows me to dream that perhaps, perhaps!, the idea of operating independently of the feds, without bailouts or preferential treatment or being in bed with them on regulation, might appeal to regular Americans. The moment that becomes a bonafide selling point, the market and the government will both be healthier. Ford made a commercial with a similar message in 2011 but it didn’t last long, getting pulled from rotation after the White House made a few calls. Ford maintains it was removed from the air for routine reasons.
Ed Haislmaier reads the tea leaves:
Ed Haislmaier reads the tea leaves:
First off, the insurer, Wellmark, is the parent company of the Iowa and South Dakota Blue Cross plans. It is the largest insurer in both states. Wellmark currently accounts for 78 percent of the individual health-insurance market and 75 percent of the employer group market in Iowa. In South Dakota it has 73 percent of the individual market and 50 percent of the group market. So, this is not some marginal player, or an upstart trying to attract attention. Rather, this is an “establishment” company talking.Second, of the 62 Blue Cross Blue Shield licensees, only three are not participating in the Obamacare exchanges in 2014, and Wellmark’s Iowa and South Dakota subsidiaries are two of those three. (The third company is Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi.) Seasoned market analysts know that it is always a good idea to pay attention to what the “contrarians” are up to.Back in mid August, an attendee at a conference of Iowa health-insurance agents told me that Wellmark had opted to stay out of the exchanges because the company did not expect—based on the way things were then going—that the exchanges would be “a positive customer experience.” Translation: Apparently Wellmark did not want to risk tarnishing its brand by associating with what was shaping up to be a disaster.
Haislmaier notes Wellmark still may get into exchanges in 2015, but is gauging its decision based on how the exchange winds blow. This ad says, “Hey, they may be trying to destroy the individual health care market with their idiocy, but we’re still here.” I wonder how many insurers might join them in the months to come.