Louise Radnofsky and
Spencer E. Ante
Nov. 30, 2013
Despite recent progress at HealthCare.gov, a raft of problems will remain beyond the Obama administration's Saturday deadline to make the troubled federal insurance website work.
The news isn't all bad: Users say the site looks better, pages load faster, and more people are getting through to sign up for health plans.
But technical problems still affect HealthCare.gov's ability to verify users' identities and transmit accurate enrollment data to insurers, officials say. The data center that supports the site faces continuing challenges, and tools for processing payments to insurers haven't been built.
Technical staff in Washington have been racing up to the end-of-November deadline. In their last public pronouncement on the effort, three days before the deadline, officials said they had much to do to get the site into a condition where it functions smoothly for a majority of users.*SNIP*
The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that the administration was planning to change its Web-hosting provider from Verizon Communications Inc. subsidiary Terremark to Hewlett-Packard Co. in the spring
, a complex transition that could introduce new challenges and take months; and the same day, the administration said it was shelving for a year any attempts to operate an online exchange for small businesses. On Wednesday, Verizon declined to comment on its clients.*SNIP*
Karen Egozi, CEO of the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida, which has trained nearly 50 people to help others enroll,
said the performance of the website has improved in recent weeks but suffers from unpredictable glitches. On Nov. 19, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius visited a medical center in Miami and watched a member of Ms. Egozi's staff help a couple fill out an application. The website failed, in front of a local TV camera crew.*SNIP*
One source of early problems: The government had bought web-hosting services from Terremark subsidiary that initially gave it a highly virtualized system of servers shared by other groups within the Medicare center, rather than a dedicated group of computer servers for HealthCare.gov. Plans are in place to replace the Verizon unit with H-P this spring.HHS also didn't initially contract for a backup website or monitoring tools
like those used by sophisticated consumer sites, according to people familiar with the matter.The website still has no separate backup copy
, but it did replace the virtual database with dedicated hardware, and bought and installed monitoring software.*SNIP*
Guy Dicharry of Los Lunas, N.M., said he had been in limbo at the identity-verification stage since Oct. 5, despite giving the site personal information several times so it can confirm his income. He hasn't heard back about a paper application submitted Nov. 1.*SNIP*
Ronald Gallagher of Paradise Valley, Ariz., said he had been helping his daughter shop for coverage. After 16 hours over four days starting Oct. 1, they were told her identity was verified and she could pick a plan. But when they logged in to the website, it said her application was "In Progress."
After failing to get help from a call center, father and daughter filled out an application over the phone in early November, but they still haven't received a letter telling what insurance plans she qualifies for. "So far, nothing the government has done has worked," Mr. Gallagher said.*SNIP*
Mr. Lewis of Maine Community Health Options also worried about a larger volume of applicants, especially since insurers have now been told to find ways to process applications that come in from people as late as Dec. 23 in time for their coverage to begin Jan. 1, rather than a previous Dec. 15 deadline.If "there's an avalanche on that last date, I don't know if the system will be able to support all that," he said.**SCHNIPP**
A few of the many inconvenient truths about the ongoing trainwreck of Obamacare. Every day that passes with few signups means that the total needed for the remaining time in the open enrollment period just grows larger. And all of those paper applications are useless if they cannot be entered into the system.
Getting the website operational was supposed to be the easy part, and since there still is no way to either collect money from recipients OR pay premium subsidies to insurance companies, this whole thing is still going to grind to a halt even if the website can merely stay online.
What a mess...and getting messier by the moment......