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Obamacare's Website Is Crashing Because It Doesn't Want You To Know How Costly Its Plans Are

Posted by on Oct. 14, 2013 at 6:27 PM
  • 91 Replies
A very interesting and thought provoking article from Forbes.

A growing consensus of IT experts, outside and inside the government, have figured out a principal reason why the website for Obamacare’s federally-sponsored insurance exchange is crashing. Healthcare.gov forces you to create an account and enter detailed personal information before you can start shopping. This, in turn, creates a massive traffic bottleneck, as the government verifies your information and decides whether or not you’re eligible for subsidies. HHS bureaucrats knew this would make the website run more slowly. But they were more afraid that letting people see the underlying cost of Obamacare’s insurance plans would scare people away.

HHS didn’t want users to see Obamacare’s true costs

“Healthcare.gov was initially going to include an option to browse before registering,” report Christopher Weaver and Louise Radnofsky in the Wall Street Journal. “But that tool was delayed, people familiar with the situation said.” Why was it delayed? “An HHS spokeswoman said the agency wanted to ensure that users were aware of their eligibility for subsidies that could help pay for coverage, before they started seeing the prices of policies.” (Emphasis added.)

As you know if you’ve been following this space, Obamacare’s bevy of mandates, regulations, taxes, and fees drives up the cost of the insurance plans that are offered under the law’s public exchanges. A Manhattan Institute analysis I helped conduct found that, on average, the cheapest plan offered in a given state, under Obamacare, will be 99 percent more expensive for men, and 62 percent more expensive for women, than the cheapest plan offered under the old system. And those disparities are even wider for healthy people.

That raises an obvious question. If 50 million people are uninsured today, mainly because insurance is too expensive, why is it better to make coverage even costlier?

Political objectives trumped operational objectives

The answer is that Obamacare wasn’t designed to help healthy people with average incomes get health insurance. It was designed to force those people to pay more for coverage, in order to subsidize insurance for people with incomes near the poverty line, and those with chronic or costly medical conditions.


But the laws’ supporters and enforcers don’t want you to know that, because it would violate the President’s incessantly repeated promise that nothing would change for the people that Obamacare doesn’t directly help. If you shop for Obamacare-based coverage without knowing if you qualify for subsidies, you might be discouraged by the law’s steep costs.

So, by analyzing your income first, if you qualify for heavy subsidies, the website can advertise those subsidies to you instead of just hitting you with Obamacare’s steep premiums. For example, the site could advertise plans that “$0″ or “$30″ instead of explaining that the plan really costs $200, and you’re getting a subsidy of $200 or $170. But you’ll have to be at or near the poverty line to gain subsidies of that size; most people will either not qualify for a subsidy, or qualify for a small one that, net-net, doesn’t make up for the law’s cost hikes.

This political objective—masking the true underlying cost of Obamacare’s insurance plans—far outweighed the operational objective of making the federal website work properly. Think about it the other way around. If the “Affordable Care Act” truly did make health insurance more affordable, there would be no need to hide these prices from the public.

Subsidy verification created a traffic bottleneck

Comparable private-sector e-commerce sites, like eHealthInsurance.com, allow you to shop for plans and compare prices simply by entering your age and your ZIP code. After you’ve selected a plan you like, you fill out an on-line application. That substantially winnows down the number of people who rely on the site for network-intensive tasks.

The federal government’s decision to force people to apply before shopping, Weaver and Radnofsky write, “proved crucial because, before users can begin shopping for coverage, they must cross a busy digital junction in which data are swapped among separate computer systems built or run by contractors including CGI Group Inc., the healthcare.gov developer, Quality Software Services Inc., a UnitedHealth Group Inc. unit; and credit-checker Experian PLC. If any part of the web of systems fails to work properly, it could lead to a traffic jam blocking most users from the marketplace.”

Jay Angoff, a former federal official at the agency that oversees the exchange, told the Journal that he was surprised by the decision. “People should be able to get quotes” without entering all of that information upfront.

Weaver and Radnofsky say that the core problem stems from “the slate of registration systems [that] intersect with Oracle Identity Manager, a software component embedded in a government identity-checking system.” The main Healthcare.gov web page collects information using the CGI Group technology. Then that data is transferred to a system built by Quailty Software Services. QSS then sends data to Experian, the credit-history firm. But the key “identity management system” employed by QSS was designed by Oracle, and according to the Journal’s sources, the Oracle software isn’t playing nicely with the other information systems.

Oracle hotly denies these claims. “Our software is the identical product deployed in most of the world’s most complex systems…our software is running properly,” said an Oracle spokeswoman in a statement.

‘It’s awful, just awful’

Robert Pear and colleagues at the New York Times have a piece up today detailing the serious problems with the federal exchange, problems that may get worse, not better. They confirm what we already knew: that the Obama administration refused to delay the implementation of the exchanges, despite the well-known problems, because they were afraid of the political blowback. “Former government officials say the White House, which was calling the shots, feared that any backtracking would further embolden Republican critics who were trying to repeal the health care law.”

As I documented last week, IT and insurance experts have been saying for at least eight months that implementation of the exchanges was going badly, that as early as February officials were warning of a “third world experience.” The Times’ sources are just as blunt. “These are not glitches,” said one insurance executive. “The extent of the problems is pretty enormous. At the end of our [conference calls with the administration], people say, ‘It’s awful, just awful.’”

“We foresee a train wreck,” said another executive in a February interview with the Times. “We don’t have the IT specifications. The level of angst in health plans is growing by leaps and bounds. The political people in the administration do not understand how far behind they are.” Richard Foster, the former chief actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said last week that “so much testing of the new system was so far behind schedule, I was not confident it would work well.”

Henry Chao, the deputy chief information officer at CMS who made the “third world experience” comment, was told by his superiors that failure to meet the October 1 launch deadline “was not an option,” according to the Times.

White House knowingly chose to court disaster

Think about it. It’s quite possible that much of this disaster could have been avoided if the Obama administration had been willing to be open with the public about the degree to which Obamacare escalates the cost of health insurance. If they had, then a number of the problems with the exchange’s software architecture would have been avoided. But that would require admitting that the “Affordable Care Act” was not accurately named.

They knew that their people on the front lines, people like Henry Chao, were worried that the exchanges would get botched. They saw the Congressional Research Service memorandum detailing that the administration has missed half of the statutory deadlines assigned by the law. But they were more afraid of the P.R. disaster of disclosing Obamacare’s high premiums than they were of the P.R. disaster of crashing websites. What you see is the result.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/theapothecary/2013/10/14/obamacares-website-is-crashing-because-it-doesnt-want-you-to-know-health-plans-true-costs/

I can't make the link clicky.

Robert Gibbs came out today on MSNBC saying these glitches are "excruciatingly embarrassing" for the administration and the people who did this website should be fired.
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by on Oct. 14, 2013 at 6:27 PM
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Replies (1-10):
LauraKW
by "Dude!" on Oct. 14, 2013 at 6:40 PM
5 moms liked this
This post is from a blog: http://www.forbes.com/sites/aroy/2011/01/30/welcome-to-the-apothecary/ It is not a fact-checked article.
jaxTheMomm
by Platinum Member on Oct. 14, 2013 at 6:40 PM
6 moms liked this

Sounds to me like Oracle broke it.  Go figure.

All the rest is speculation by an unofficial Romney advisor - that's all I know about the writer.  However, having been in this industry for longer than I care to admit, I will say - you don't spend millions upon millions of dollars and untold man hours to deliberately develop an application you don't want people to use.

muslimomof2
by Member on Oct. 14, 2013 at 6:51 PM
1 mom liked this

I signed up for it over the phone the silver plan was 56 dollars a month for me with 15 company's and a 1500 deductible

12hellokitty
by Platinum Member on Oct. 14, 2013 at 6:52 PM
10 moms liked this
It's the Pelosi strategy....you have to sign up for a plan to know how much it costs.
DSamuels
by Gold Member on Oct. 14, 2013 at 6:54 PM
Maybe because they thought no one, or fewer, would after they saw the prices? At least now they can track those who created accounts.

Quoting 12hellokitty:

It's the Pelosi strategy....you have to sign up for a plan to know how much it costs.
Posted on CafeMom Mobile
muslimah
by on Oct. 14, 2013 at 6:55 PM
3 moms liked this

 

Quoting muslimomof2:

I signed up for it over the phone the silver plan was 56 dollars a month for me with 15 company's and a 1500 deductible

 May as well pay the damn fine with a deductible like that and $672.00 a year on top of top.

 Subhan Allah ( سبحان الله )"Glory be to Allah"
 Alhamdulillah ( الحمدللہ )"All Praise to Allah"
 Allahu Akbar ( الله اكبر )"Allah is the Greatest"

muslimomof2
by Member on Oct. 14, 2013 at 7:00 PM


The deductible is only if you  go to er. I could have taken the gold plan it was 150 a month with 5 dollar visits and a 250 deductible... I personally would be better to pay less a month though because I haven't been in the hospital in 4 years I had one kid at a  birth center and the other at home. Also it does include maternity benefits ithoutbthise costing towards the deductible. My Jobs in insurance threw blue cross had a 2500 deductible!!!

Quoting muslimah:

 

Quoting muslimomof2:

I signed up for it over the phone the silver plan was 56 dollars a month for me with 15 company's and a 1500 deductible

 May as well pay the damn fine with a deductible like that and $672.00 a year on top of top.



FromAtoZ
by AllieCat on Oct. 14, 2013 at 7:03 PM

This is not a fact based/checked article.

One way or another, if people are paying attention, the cost is there.  For some it may not present much of an avenue in which to travel down.  For others, it may be a road they have not had available to them until now.

DSamuels
by Gold Member on Oct. 14, 2013 at 7:04 PM
What state are you in? We have insurance, but I looked at our state website and ours would be around $634 a month for the second least expensive silver plan with high deductible and high out of pocket expenses.

We currently pay $250 a month with $1000 deductible and $35/55 copays for dr/specialist visits. The deductible is for ER, X-rays, tests, CAT scans, etc. There is also a $200 copay for the ER unless you're admitted.


Quoting muslimomof2:


The deductible is onlynifnyou go to er. I could have taken the gold plan it was 150 a month with 5 dollar visits and a 250 deductible... I personally would be better to pay less a month though because I haven't been in the hospital in 4 years I had one kid at a  birth center and the other at home. Also it does include maternity benefits ithoutbthise costing towards the deductible. My Jobs in durance threw blue cross had a 2500 deductible!!!


Quoting muslimah:

 


Quoting muslimomof2:


I signed up for it over the phone the silver plan was 56 dollars a month for me with 15 company's and a 1500 deductible


 May as well pay the damn fine with a deductible like that and $672.00 a year on top of top.




Posted on CafeMom Mobile
muslimomof2
by Member on Oct. 14, 2013 at 7:07 PM

Vathe insurance was only for me not my kids and my husband uses the va clinic and hospital for his care and my kids have Insurance for kids threw the state for mid income families just above the property line we pay a small amount for

Quoting DSamuels:

What state are you in? We have insurance, but I looked at our state website and ours would be around $634 a month for the second least expensive silver plan with high deductible and high out of pocket expenses.

We currently pay $250 a month with $1000 deductible and $35/55 copays for dr/specialist visits. The deductible is for ER, X-rays, tests, CAT scans, etc. There is also a $200 copay for the ER unless you're admitted.


Quoting muslimomof2:


The deductible is onlynifnyou go to er. I could have taken the gold plan it was 150 a month with 5 dollar visits and a 250 deductible... I personally would be better to pay less a month though because I haven't been in the hospital in 4 years I had one kid at a  birth center and the other at home. Also it does include maternity benefits ithoutbthise costing towards the deductible. My Jobs in durance threw blue cross had a 2500 deductible!!!


Quoting muslimah:

 


Quoting muslimomof2:


I signed up for it over the phone the silver plan was 56 dollars a month for me with 15 company's and a 1500 deductible


 May as well pay the damn fine with a deductible like that and $672.00 a year on top of top.






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