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. Steve

    Ben Franklin: "Those who are good at making excuses are seldom good at ANYTHING else."

    November 6, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  2. cumulus

    Jj,, let me enlighten you, we have never had the best health system, EVER, common knowledge, so when that's the first thing smart people read, we usually ignore the rest, as your credibility is nonexistent by your first proclamation, thanks for stopping by

    November 6, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  3. Balanced99

    Our Economy is in dire straights – 17 Billion in Debt and Rising Quickly (does anyone remember when Obama called Bush "unpatriotic at 8 Billion)?

    All agree (every bi-partisan study) that the Big 3 MUST be addressed – yes, the Entitlements

    Obamacare is now the Fourth Entitlement (oddly enough – ignored by the Fourth Estate).

    There's nothing, nothing less efficient than government. Google, Facebook and all the others would be out of business had they spent what taxpayers did on this website – even if it worked! We've been robbed – period.

    Look at Detroit. Look at Greece. Look at the growing number of cities in California that are BANKRUPT! Bankrupt by years of corrupt politicians who kept promising things that could never be paid for – promising them to win the next election.

    Obama will do anything for the next election – even if he's not the one running. The lies and scandals are countless and growing – and still mainly ignored by the CNN's of the world (that is until they can be ignored no longer – they then go into damage control).

    Congrats to the idiots that keep putting the liars in office – mainly those who receive the most from government and contribute the least. You will destroy this country.

    November 6, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  4. critical thinking

    I hope the Dems continue to support this program, especially the Dem. senators up for re-election but as usual they are beginning to jump ship, but it's probably too late. Hope Obama enjoys his last two years with a rep. house and senate.

    November 6, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    the ones defening obama u catch the fact that if u like your plan you can keep??? now its a complete turn around....... you guys must be the ones that can afford the high prices. and the only reason it got in is the people that voted for it thought it was yet another free hand out. Surprise!!!!!! bet they'd like to take there vote back. im hoping very few enroll and they have to dump the law!!!\

    November 6, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  6. Deomcorats,Obama bad for America.


    It is quiet annoying. Not the Obamacare website, but how people react to it. When someone falls in front of you, do you stand there and laugh at that person? Don't we immediately join hands to defend ourselves when attacked from outside? Has not everyone in their life (public or personal) seen failures? Ok, the website did not work? It is not going to be like this forever. Those who blame, need not come forward to help. Atleast, try not to send wrong messages to your fellow citizens who are willing to help. Mr. President, you won't diminish by the passing clouds. What you have done is great and good things are not always appreciated by everyone. It's not because they do not like it, it is simply because that is how they are. Keep moving forward, and don't delay reaching your goal by stopping to talk with them. It is of no use. Yes, we can and we will. AJ.

    No you can't and no you will not AJ, Now wake up and smell the coffee, Not the Obama kool-aid

    November 6, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  7. Fish

    last night wasn't another shellacking but came close to a severe lacquering!!! The Dems are pitiful when they squeak out a win!!! They must get Obamacare off the table it is dragging out longer then the war they promised to end!!!

    November 6, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  8. What an embarassing administration

    All we get is lies and incompetence.

    November 6, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  9. Sniffit

    "Don't we immediately join hands to defend ourselves when attacked from outside? "

    Yes, we do, which is why the GOP/Teatrolls have spent oh so much time, energy, money and blather trying to paint Obama as an outsider...birtherism, "un-American", "he's not one of us," "he doesn't understand us," "he's secretly a muslim running our krischun nashun" etc. Deeply ingrained in the GOP/Teatrolls' strategy for the past 6 years has been the effort to sell the ridiculous, false idea that Obama is "other" and an "outsider."

    November 6, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  10. faircma

    cog in the wheel

    I hope the site is fixed soon. The fact that the website wasn't designed and/or constructed properly doesn't negate the many positive changes the ACA brings to American citizens. US presidents have talked about changing the healthcare system for 40 years or more...let's give this new approach a few months and see how it works.

    I'm all for making improvements as problems are identified. Scrapping the whole thing is NOT an improvement.

    Sure you are; until it comes out of your pocket.

    November 6, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  11. Susan

    My favorite part about the new healthcare plans...They are more expensive AND offer less benefits! (Note: Sarcasm)

    The notion that these plans are good for people is laughable. Wait till your wallet starts feeling the effects of this nonsense....just wait....

    November 6, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  12. YippieSkippie

    So may lobbyists, so few results....

    November 6, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    Whats the big deal about the website taking so long to get situated? Every other website probably had its inventors friends and family join the first day the slowly grew, so the administrators had time to grow the site slowly. They also had the opportunity to fix their sites nightmare problems before their site became popular. I'm sure, over a million people join the health care website on its first day, how well do you think this would have turned out for any website. Besides, is the website the actual health care program, no. All of people who are criticizing the health care program, that hasn't even gone into effect, because of this website debacle, would probably think their television was broke if the actual cause was you didn't have electricity in their home.

    November 6, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  14. Davidio Flavio

    Wow, CNN now seems to be SOOOOO concerned for how bad Obama is screwing the country.

    What took so long???

    The only thing I can't figure out, is why George W. Bush is somehow responsible for the failure of Obamacare????

    November 6, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  15. Sniffit

    "1/2 a bil for a website. You're kidding me."

    $24B for shutting down the gov't and achieving, producing, making and gaining ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. You're killing us.


    November 6, 2013 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  16. J

    Hussein fails again.

    November 6, 2013 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  17. Jim

    I have an employer provided plan – so I am not a direct participant in Obamacare. I did, however, receive and e-mail from our HR dept indicating that 4.2% of our rate increase for 2014 is directly attributable to the ACA. Now, when the younger folks decide to pay the $90 per year penalty rather than forking out $250 per month for "affordable" insurance, how much bigger are these increases going to get?

    November 6, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  18. valwayne

    In short nothing but total, across the board, incompetence. Its actually not even incompetence is negligence. They had 4 years, billions of dollars, and all the resources of the Federal Government yet Obama and his corrupt LYING regime hired cronies with 10 year old technology and put together garbage across the board. You have Amazon, Ebay, all major companies run complex websites, but Obama couldn't manage anything. These people want to run our healthcare system. Its all a joke folks. They can't run a website let alone our entire healthcare system. No wonder Obama and the democrat have LIED to us to get us into this mess, and they are still LYING. Everyone except the very poor and illegal aliens who will get free healthcare, as bad as it will be, will be paying up to 10X more for all of this incompetence and waste. Face it, this is going to cost 10X more than Obama and the democrats told us so that they can buy some votes with free healthcare. 10x as much before we are done, and if you have a job or own a business and are getting it free it means you will be paying. This is the end of personal health insurance and in 3 years business provided health insurance will no longer exists, and that's what Obama and the democrat intended all along. The misery is just starting folks this gets worse, than it gets disastrous, than it become a total castastrophe for our nation as it tanks our economy and starts killing jobs by the millions.

    November 6, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  19. HornedViking

    This roll out, the policy cancellations, etc, and all the politicans jumping up and down blaming each oher, why doesn't Congress vote to repeal the law and figure out how to make it better for all. Obviously its not ready to go, poorly thought out with all this panic. Vote the damn thing down and fix it. This time Senators and Congressmen, READ the freaking thing before you vote on it.

    Repeal it NOW!!!

    November 6, 2013 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  20. Bill Dodd

    Its more than a website. Its total system breakdown. People simply can't shop and can't sign up. Poorly written law, too much reliance on agency rules that were to be determined which drive up costs, poor execution, poor management, poor executive leadership of HHS and even Presidency for not tracking such a moajor impact on peoples lives.

    November 6, 2013 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  21. PileOfSteamingPolitician

    Using Obamacare and thought in the same sentence is just wrong.

    November 6, 2013 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  22. mike

    Sorry, tea-terrorists. The ACA isn't going anywhere. You'll get over it.

    November 6, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  23. sarah

    this is so obvious that they want to sell the problems of a website to sell news. Obama care stopped being on their trending list.. so what do we do now says CNN executive ..Another Obama article on the web site that will do it!!! zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz....... so over this. most Americans are willing to give this a shot. Don't believe the hype.

    November 6, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  24. Sam

    What initial roll-out was ever 100% successful?
    Facebook crashes, Wikipedia crashes, heck, even GOOGLE crashes from time to time!
    Car companies do re-calls, beef producers do re-calls, and even children's TOY companies do re-calls.
    Let's all take a deep breath and allow the technicians to work out coding kinks and get the website running smoother, okay? This does NOT mark the end of the country or the end of the world! It's just a technical issue!!!

    November 6, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  25. Rachel

    This is no more of a mess than his whole loser administration. Crooks each and every last one.

    November 6, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
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