Obamacare 'war room' notes provide window into fix-it effort
November 4th, 2013
10:43 AM ET
9 months ago

Obamacare 'war room' notes provide window into fix-it effort

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama and supporters of Obamacare have encouraged Americans frustrated by the glitchy HealthCare.gov website to apply for coverage over the phone. But according to meeting notes released Monday by Republican investigators on Capitol Hill, it turns out the phone operators rely on the website to push through transactions.

Meanwhile, performance has improved, but problems with the website continue as open enrollment for Obamacare enters the second of a planned six months. A notice at the top of HealthCare.gov explains the website will be out of order between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., ET, every night as contractors work to improve its performance.

Back in October, officials quietly encouraged the use of paper applications instead of the website in part to make people obtaining insurance "feel like they were moving forward," according to the documents, which the House Committee on Government Reform obtained as part of an ongoing investigation into the botched rollout of healthcare.gov.

"The same portal is used to determine eligibility no matter how the application is submitted (paper, online), so improving that experience for everyone matters and there is coordination to improve that experience," according to the documents dated Oct. 11.

The notes, dated from four different meetings throughout October, appear to be notes from meetings conducted by the Center for Consumer Information & Insurance Oversight (CCIIO), the Heath and Human Services Department charged with coordinating rollout of the state and federal healthcare marketplaces that are a cornerstone of the Affordable Care Act. It is not clear who is the author.

They list issues reported by various computer contractors, by officials dealing with phone operators and by people apparently in contact with the health reform "navigators," specially trained individuals hired by the government to help uninsured Americans obtain coverage through the marketplace exchanges.

But these navigators apparently expressed grave concern about the broken website.

"Navigators are seeing people very frustrated and walking away so they are turning to paper applications to protect their reputations as people in the communities who can help, even though paper applications will not have a quicker result necessarily."

The government has still not released official data on how many Americans have been able to purchase insurance over the exchanges. But there are clues in the CIIO notes released Monday.

The Oct. 11 document describes issues with the website's data hub that "about 1000 of the transactions did not make it; that's about 15% of the transactions early on."

It's not clear exactly what the timeframe for those 1,000 transactions was, although it was certainly less than 11 days from the Oct. 1 launch, or if they referred to transactions other than people actually trying to purchase insurance.

The Oct. 11 set of notes also suggests that at that time, phone operators were receiving approximately 30,000 requests for paper applications each day.

Several days later, one contractor, Serco, reported, "at about 1,000 paper applications; volume up at the end of last week."

Serco is a contractor charged with helping process paper applications.

There are also clues about other unexpected problems. Data, presumably from the Veterans Affairs administration, appeared to be flawed.

"The Veterans Affairs data issue (75% of their pings coming back as deceased) is still being investigated," according to the notes.


Filed under: Health care • Obamacare • President Obama
soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. Gurgyl

    I am sick and tired of this old garbage by GOP thugs. ACA IS A LAW. They are fixing. No argument further.

    November 4, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  2. Tampa Tim

    After trying to make sense out bagger attacks, it leads to questions. What is more socialist than to have private insurance companies competing for providing insurance to hundreds of million? What is more socialist than the market going from 6700 to over 15,000? One of our socialist programs is the military, and it is the best in the world. Social security, Medicare, Medicaid, national parks, VA are a few others that the brain dead baggers are attacking would be better served by getting them to support all Americans.

    November 4, 2013 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  3. Tampa Tim

    Did you see that a right wingnut wrote that the website for ACA cost $200 billion? Glenn Beck sure has an interesting following.

    November 4, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  4. Abbey

    The Democrats created this mess called Obamacare. They created a new tax and a system that will push most Americans away for the good the notion that the Federal government can mandate choices. Yep, Democrats you own all of this mess, period.

    November 4, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  5. Sniffit

    And of course, CNN is doing a bang-up job ignoring the growing chorus of complaints that insurers around the country are, in fact, sending out misleading "cancellation/roll-over" letters to their customers, failing to provide them with necessary or accurate information (i.e., "it's not lying if what I said was true but wasn't the whole story") and attempting to frighten them into rolling over into a new insurance plan that will cost more. People who have received them are finding out that they can use the ACA exchanges to get better coverage for less and word is starting to leak out and gather the attention of state insurance regulators. Will CNN be carrying the insurance giants' water on this or what?

    November 4, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  6. magyart

    This is going to take a long time to fix. However, good insurance plans for people pass child bearing ages is being canceled because it lacks maturity care. I'm 60 years old, why should I be forced to buy this ?

    November 4, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  7. Thomas

    Rand Paul 2016
    Aqua Buddha Dueling festival , its all in your mind !

    November 4, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  8. markens

    A.C.A will be fixed. I think that someone has been paid to sabotage the Website. it is just my opinion. The president should direct the FBI to investigate.

    November 4, 2013 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  9. Rudy NYC

    No one seems to be addressing the pnk elephant in the room. What about the people who do not have internet access? There's a lot of people in that category, and most of them are poor and without healthcare.

    November 4, 2013 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  10. tom l

    "People who have received them are finding out that they can use the ACA exchanges to get better coverage for less"

    That is just an outright lie. For people that had plans that did not have all of the coverage that the ACA mandates, there is not one policy out there that is cheaper. Talk about misleading statements.

    November 4, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  11. California

    You Also Can't Keep Your Doctor I had great cancer doctors and health insurance. My plan was cancelled. Now I worry how long I'll live.

    By
    Edie Littlefield Sundby
    Nov. 3, 2013 6:37 p.m. ET

    Everyone now is clamoring about Affordable Care Act winners and losers. I am one of the losers.

    My grievance is not political; all my energies are directed to enjoying life and staying alive, and I have no time for politics. For almost seven years I have fought and survived stage-4 gallbladder cancer, with a five-year survival rate of less than 2% after diagnosis. I am a determined fighter and extremely lucky. But this luck may have just run out: My affordable, lifesaving medical insurance policy has been canceled effective Dec. 31.

    My choice is to get coverage through the government health exchange and lose access to my cancer doctors, or pay much more for insurance outside the exchange (the quotes average 40% to 50% more) for the privilege of starting over with an unfamiliar insurance company and impaired benefits. .

    November 4, 2013 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  12. A True Conservative

    @Gurgyl – Slavery was a law. Prohibition was a law. What's your point? Oh yea – your point is when progressives pass a law it is absolute – beyond question. Guess again!

    Regarding the "war room" – my company sets up a "war room" BEFORE we roll out a new product in order to test and then immediately support any unexpected issues that arise.

    November 4, 2013 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  13. ST

    Folks, we have forgetten right from the beginning this ACA "Obamacare" was known as "Health Care Reform". Reform means : making changes. Whether it is the website not working properly or those who are complaining they can't keep their doctors according to what the President said earlier; all these will continue to be changed until each and every individual is satisfied with all the reforms.

    November 4, 2013 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  14. Fair is Fair

    "But according to meeting notes released Monday by Republican investigators on Capitol Hill, it turns out the phone operators rely on the website to push through transactions."
    -----–
    So how does enrolling by phone solve the problem if both methods are using the same user interface? Something's not passing the sniff test.

    November 4, 2013 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  15. Thomas

    @A True Conservative
    @Gurgyl – Slavery was a law. Prohibition was a law. What's your point? Oh yea – your point is when progressives pass a law it is absolute – beyond question. Guess again!

    Regarding the "war room" – my company sets up a "war room" BEFORE we roll out a new product in order to test and then immediately support any unexpected issues that arise.

    ===

    And do tell us what your new product roll out might be , Dueling Aqua Buddha Bowling Balls ?

    November 4, 2013 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  16. Rick McDaniel

    It is a train wreck disaster, and it will remain so. People are getting hurt by this fiasco.........and that's the bottom line.

    November 4, 2013 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  17. Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair wrote:

    "But according to meeting notes released Monday by Republican investigators on Capitol Hill, it turns out the phone operators rely on the website to push through transactions."

    So how does enrolling by phone solve the problem if both methods are using the same user interface? Something's not passing the sniff test.
    ------------------
    There is a very simple explanation. Obviously, the phone operators are already logged into the system, and therefore bypass the problems people are facing. That was easy.

    November 4, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  18. Sniffit

    ""People who have received them are finding out that they can use the ACA exchanges to get better coverage for less"

    That is just an outright lie. For people that had plans that did not have all of the coverage that the ACA mandates, there is not one policy out there that is cheaper. Talk about misleading statements."

    Do your research. I can only report what is being reported elsewhere. Perhaps you should look elsewhere. Check for stories about LifeWise and Humana. Heck, Humana already got fined by the state regulatory agency for its misleading BS. People are even finding that their insurer has the same plan as their "rollover" plan available on the exchange and that it's cheaper on the exchange than the "do nothing and you'll be rolled over into it" price. They're scamming people and it is generating skewed data.

    November 4, 2013 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  19. Sniffit

    "A True Conservative

    @Gurgyl – Slavery was a law. Prohibition was a law. What's your point? Oh yea – your point is when progressives pass a law it is absolute – beyond question. Guess again!"
    ===

    So, what you're saying, "True," is that you're still bitter about slavery and prohibition being reversed and not lasting forever as "absolute"? :-)

    November 4, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  20. Ol' Yeller

    "People who have received them are finding out that they can use the ACA exchanges to get better coverage for less"

    That is just an outright lie. For people that had plans that did not have all of the coverage that the ACA mandates, there is not one policy out there that is cheaper. Talk about misleading statements.

    That is NOT an outright lie! I have seen several accounts of how people have gotten much better policies through the exchange than the junk policies they had previously carried. Do some pay more.... yes. No one said this wasn't going to cost some more and others less. It is about getting people covered, NIT about everyone gets a gold policy for 4 cents a month.
    I got an idea, tom I... you quit lying about the Dems, and I will quit telling the truth about you righties. Your party would have been toast years ago if not for the faux noise machine and rubes who believe that drivel.

    November 4, 2013 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  21. Fair is Fair

    Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair wrote:

    "But according to meeting notes released Monday by Republican investigators on Capitol Hill, it turns out the phone operators rely on the website to push through transactions."

    So how does enrolling by phone solve the problem if both methods are using the same user interface? Something's not passing the sniff test.
    ------
    There is a very simple explanation. Obviously, the phone operators are already logged into the system, and therefore bypass the problems people are facing. That was easy.
    --------
    Oh come on... will you EVER stop? What you're saying is that the only thing that needs to be fixed with this website is the ability to log on? Really????? How did the phone operators log on? And why has it taken a MONTH to fix a logging on problem?? You've come up with some doozies, but this one takes the cake.

    November 4, 2013 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  22. Hector Slagg

    Well,
    I see the scammers and crooks are already out in full force. Nothing changes. When Marco Polo traveled to China he did much of it by water because of thieves, robbers, bandits, and other all around nice guys. Interesting to see nothing's changed.

    November 4, 2013 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  23. TONE

    CNN can you come up with a new story i got it the roll out was not as expected, because of a computer glitch, but they are fixing it. So CNN what new news do you have for us.

    November 4, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  24. Wire Palladin, S.F.

    Rick McDaniel – You are losing it. "Train wreck" is last week's RWNJ talking point. This week the RWNJs are claiming the website cost $200 billion. Come on man, get with the wing nut program.

    November 4, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  25. Wire Palladin, S.F.

    Hector – You are a hoot. Sound a lot like Nanny State Ray. Are you saying that Marco Polo did not have to deal with Somali Pirates? There are some people living in the dark ages, and think those were the good old days.

    November 4, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
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