November 6th, 2013
01:41 AM ET
9 years ago

Documents show first days of Obamacare rollout worse than initially realized

Updated 4:19 p.m. ET, 11/6/2013

(CNN) - A stack of daily updates written by Obamacare contractors shows the October rollout hit more walls than previously known: In the first days, half of the calls to the phone center had problems, paper applications could not be processed and up to 40,000 people at a time were sitting in the waiting room of

The 175 pages of internal updates during the sign-up chronicle the growing ailments and efforts to heal the system during October. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, led by Republican Darrell Issa, obtained the documents from contractors involved and released them Wednesday.

"50% of the call center calls have issues," reads an entry on day three of the sign-up. "Anecdotal evidence supports a widerspread problem (with the call centers)," the October 3 document says.

Phone trouble continued into the next week. "Our call center reps can't see their screens," wrote an unnamed consultant on October 7. "So we need to train them ... with this issue." The following day, another note: "Call Center – Working with them to help them triage their issues."

At the same time, the paper applications starting to arrive were in limbo. "Serco still cannot process online the 500+ applications they have," reads one line from October 8 war room notes. Serco is the company paid to handle all the paperwork involved with the Affordable Care Acts sign-ups. Website problems meant that Serco, like individual consumers themselves, could not file applications online.

The Department of Health and Human Services points out the problems were at their worst at the beginning and either were fixed or are being fixed. “These are just notes by a contractor,” HHS spokeswoman Joanne Peters wrote to CNN in a statement, stressing that these documents present just one piece of the effort. “Many of (the documents) are more than a month old and they reflect static points in time in a fast moving process. We have made significant progress, as we have worked to identify issues, diagnose them and fix them.”

The updates indicate that contractors waited for HHS before directing people to the paper applications. An October 3 entry reads that navigators needed "approval from leadership" before directing people to the paper option That approval seemed to come by October 21, when another entry indicates navigators should use the paper forms.

The contractor documents are an up-close look at the asteroid field of issues with the Obamacare launch.

According to the war room notes: On day one, October 1, the system mistakenly rejected 90% of Medicaid applicants. The next day, estimates counted 40,000 people in the waiting room, while just 100 people had enrolled. By day three, it was clear that insurers were not getting the data for people who had signed up for their plans.

Systemwide issues were compounded by more isolated problems. On day six, Utah asked to shut down its exchange because the main insurance provider in the state had not been able to set up its template in the system. A few days later, on October 9, contractor notes say that the entire system has skipped some questions or information for 30% of all applicants.

A few days later, and another specific problem: insurers in Oklahoma were confused over whether they had to provide coverage for bariatric weight loss surgery (they didn't, sparking the need for changes to some plans).

Issues continued, but after the first week, the trend turned more positive.

On October 9, the war room update for the morning says, "About 60% of applicants are getting into without sitting in the waiting room." That left 40% who still had to wait. But the number was a vast improvement from the 90% to 95% percent the week before.

Filed under: Darrell Issa • Healthcare • HHS • Obamacare
soundoff (385 Responses)
  1. simplyput

    I've been covered under the ACA for three years with a $2,000 deductible. No such policy now. Feel totally scammed.

    November 6, 2013 01:52 am at 1:52 am |
  2. Data Driven

    "CNN provided heavy coverage last week of the troubled introduction of the website tied to the Affordable Care Act. The result was the lowest weekly ratings for CNN in more than a year." (New York Times)

    LOL, keep it up, Zucker. You destroyed NBC and now you're destroying CNN.

    1) Liberals who used to come here are leaving
    2) Conservatives still prefer Fox
    3) Centrists will come here and be turned off by the obvious agenda and lack of straight-forward reporting

    So! "Is this a good thing, or a bad thing"? LOL!

    November 6, 2013 02:17 am at 2:17 am |
  3. simplyput

    Okay, since CNN is censoring the truth about the ACA, I will add some more information. I have been on the ACA for three years on a $2.000 deductible. No such plan is available now. There's no *waiting room* when you call in, because unless you apply, there is no info availiable. Also, why has my policy not been grand-fathered in, as promised instead of cancelled because the IRS lost money in June, which affected by coverage from 80/20 to 70/30? The cool aid drinkers at CNN think they can keep this out of the public realm. Not so. Website is failure, but the product is worse. Implosion is coming soon.

    November 6, 2013 02:55 am at 2:55 am |
  4. Iamnotfooled

    I heard that they are processing 17,000 applicants an hour now. Go Obamacare.

    November 6, 2013 03:28 am at 3:28 am |
  5. miberg

    Definition of government:
    – Incompetent
    – expensive
    – corrupt

    What the heck did you expect? On top of all a Liar in Chief who was proven to lie 23 times on TV about the ACA.

    November 6, 2013 05:09 am at 5:09 am |
  6. james

    By the time the state-run media gets cranking Obamacare will be one of the greatest healing events of all time. Just give them time and Obama will once again be the hero.

    November 6, 2013 05:15 am at 5:15 am |
  7. Sundara0000

    Some old story, same old problems. The healthcare site was made and run like these last 6 years, sloppy and extremely dangerous to the country. Go ahead and sign up, just know that when you do you are giving away your rights to privacy and your doctor patient rights....better read that fine print.

    November 6, 2013 05:19 am at 5:19 am |
  8. Dave

    As a Software Engineer I think it's worth noting that regardless of how many uninformed opinions there are out there about how "easy it is to make a website", the ultimate fact is that integrating 36 different systems is difficult. Doing so *quickly*, which is what the people who developed this system were trying to do is even more difficult, and prone to lots of issues. Is this the fault of conservatives? No. Is this the fault of liberals? No. It's very frustrating to see people who don't know wtf they're talking about and have no interest in educating themselves spouting their ridiculous views and muddling up an already messy issue.

    November 6, 2013 05:28 am at 5:28 am |
  9. I told you so

    What a joke. This country has no credibility at any level.

    November 6, 2013 05:31 am at 5:31 am |
  10. danita

    you mean worse than CNN thought or attempted to cover up for obama.

    November 6, 2013 05:43 am at 5:43 am |
  11. sweeper111

    I have tried several times, and had 100% failure except that I saw prices. If you don't qualify for a subsidy it is at least one hundred dollars a month more than a previous Anthem plan for Bronze that will allow the hospital to charge you full rate of say 308 dollars for a procedure Anthem would pay 133 for. This should be addressed too, prices should be the same for everyone. (YES I have a bill in front of me)

    November 6, 2013 05:47 am at 5:47 am |
  12. Dan

    "Worse than expected"??? Guys, this isn't over yet and you have failed to highlight that the President lied his can off

    November 6, 2013 05:49 am at 5:49 am |
  13. Ant

    Big surprise . Government can't run a coffee shop without screwing it up why in the hell did people believe they can take this on. Only thing the federal government is good at is collecting taxes

    November 6, 2013 05:49 am at 5:49 am |
  14. The Elephant in The Room

    Memo to Republicans that want to be taken seriously as Presidential timbre. Have a llist of 10 EnHANCEMENTS to Obamacare that you would institute.
    Americans do NOT support citizens dying in the street because they are uninsured. Nor do we think costs should bee so high because 30 million lower income people are get cost-inefficient care via hospital emergency rooms. Any candidate claiming to be able to work across party lines will have to show us their approach to healthcare reform. Repeal / Defund / Delay will not meet the standard vcters require. Oh, and Hillary, are you listening? What are YOU prepared to do?

    November 6, 2013 05:51 am at 5:51 am |
  15. J R Brown

    So...when Obama said to phone in your application or mail it in because the website was down, did he not know that the people you were sending your apps to were then going to use the same busted azz website to enroll you that you could use in the first place???

    November 6, 2013 05:52 am at 5:52 am |
  16. J

    When Hussein fails, he starts pointing finger.

    November 6, 2013 05:59 am at 5:59 am |
  17. NooYawkah

    What an amazing confluence of totally unforeseen catastrophic calamities. *burp*

    November 6, 2013 06:06 am at 6:06 am |
  18. Thomas Nichols

    They really do need to pull the plug. Take ObamaCare off life support alltogether. Fire up the shredder and file that website where it belongs. Then give the insurance business back to the insurance business.

    November 6, 2013 06:08 am at 6:08 am |
  19. incredulous lies

    So if he lies about all this and much more then what about his entire presidency? His entire life? He has flat out lied to the American people about this health care boondoggle failure. Everything he has done has been a lie and 18 trillion debt that include 8 trillion of his own in just 4 years is beyond anything the universe has ever seen. He takes being the worse ever to a new level and then some. Mr Cool? What a joke.

    November 6, 2013 06:10 am at 6:10 am |
  20. daveugber

    i don't believe a word coming out of this administration any more...not one word...PERIOD

    November 6, 2013 06:11 am at 6:11 am |
  21. Marie MD

    Give it up faux news lite, there are other more important stories such as the canadian terrorist's ethics violation. Are they paying you not to talk about it?
    What ago king of Iowa saying that dig fighting sub humans have rights?

    November 6, 2013 06:13 am at 6:13 am |
  22. Marie MD

    Not that they will print it but that should read DOG fighting.

    November 6, 2013 06:13 am at 6:13 am |
  23. kim

    one, it's not obamacare, it's the ACA
    two,stop beating a dead horse, we all know the details, including that it's being worked on 24/7
    three republicans need to get a life

    November 6, 2013 06:14 am at 6:14 am |
  24. Zeke

    What did they expect? Indifferent attention begets indifferent results. That said, all Obama has to do is man up for the responsibility for this disaster and most will forgive. He cannot do that and that is obvious. He is so insecure about himself, he must blame others or claim other did not pay attention.

    November 6, 2013 06:21 am at 6:21 am |
  25. disanitnodicos

    The White House lied and said the problem was traffic. That wasn't the problem. The problem was planning.

    November 6, 2013 06:24 am at 6:24 am |
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