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. Sniffit

    "Strikes me as odd.....We can put a man in space, spy on foreign governments, spy on citizens, "defend the nation from hackers"....but when it comes time to "provide a service" like a simple website......speaks volumes."

    Name everything that one or the other party did in a coordinated attempt to deliberately break, hamper, sabotage and generally ruin the space program, our intelligence agencies and systems and national cyber-security systems. When you're done, I'll provide you a list of the things the GOP/Teatrolls have done to deliberately break, hamper, sabotage and generally ruin the implementation of the ACA. Ready? Go!

    November 6, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  2. Stephen

    "It is not the critic who counts. Not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly. Who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming. But who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat". Theodore Roosevelt (1910)
    Most people criticizing the ACA are the "cold and timid souls" who have done absolutely nothing to fix a health care system that everyone for the last 30 years has said was broken and exceedingly expensive. Thanks to President O for at least "daring greatly".

    November 6, 2013 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  3. ThTruth

    Its about 1 agenda and ! agenda only. OPEN YOUR EYES. Redistribution of wealth, getting back at the rich and making sure his "FOLKS" get everything they need before he leaves. !!!!

    November 6, 2013 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  4. PileOfSteamingPolitician

    I guess this report could wait until after election day, nice job.

    November 6, 2013 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  5. Sniffit

    "Early reports are that not only is the website a debacle, but there are no savings to be had. Average premiums are up 50%-68% and that's to say nothing about significantly increased deductibles. "

    Just plain wrong and a lie. That's not what early reports are showing. Try again by searching somewhere other than Red State, WND, Faux News and Breitbart for your information.

    November 6, 2013 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  6. Enron times 10,000?

    This is starting to make Enron look like a "class act"....

    November 6, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  7. James

    I like how the article attempts to end on a positive note ...'a vast improvement'. If it looks like crap, it smells like crap... it's probably crap. It's always going to be crap.

    November 6, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  8. Harsh Realities

    The cost to hard working taxpayers is much greater than advertised, and no, people are not being allowed to keep their insurance and doctors if they like them....period!

    November 6, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  9. djrkw

    I'm so tired of hearing about the Affordable Care Act!! There are lunatics running into schools, malls, airports on a weekly basis and murdering people because they feel like doing so. Yet we focus on the failed rollout of one website and spin it as if the success of the website rollout is an indicator of the program's success in general. CNN posts pictures of Obama looking like he's about to cry because his website didn't rollout successfully. We have no data to support that the Affordable Care Act is a failure. This website represents ONE channel of signing up for coverage. People can sign up by phone or mail. Let's put this issue into perspective please. IT'S NOT A BIG DEAL!!

    November 6, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  10. Randy

    Obama care should shut down get it fixed right then launch it the right way in working condition they shouldn't try to patch it up that would look tacky to do, Obama care should be only for those who can't afford expensive heath care and he should not force anyone that has their own heath care that is working well for them to get his that is crossing the line and that would be wrong to do if we have our own heath care it should stay that way and the one he is providing should be for those that don't have any health care and it should be affordable for them.

    November 6, 2013 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  11. cumulus

    Our employer sponsored insurance was still available, at a small increase, we switched to another plan, 150 cheaper, for much better insurance, copay instead of having to reach a 4000 deductible before the insurance oats one dime, lower deductible too yeah! In Michigan, we have two options under bcbs, and only requires 5 people to get a plan, we have 30 people, and have both employees under both plans simultaneously

    November 6, 2013 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  12. Girlfriend

    Are we surprised? Really? This guy hasn't even run a lemonade stand and picks his leadership without a thought for skill, experience or business acumen. He surrounds himself with those who support his demogogery. The sad part is that a reasonable application developer would have tested this system end-to-end before deployment, identified the bugs and fixed them and then launched. I guess this contractor was told to cut alot of corners (no surprise there either – the overarching concern in Washington these days is "deliver something, even if it's wrong, and we'll fix it on the back end"). The next thing we'll hear about is our President taking credit for fixing it....

    November 6, 2013 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  13. Not An Obamaton

    Love all the, "Wait one year and it will be fine" comments. Funny thing is Obama and Reid were dead set against giving individuals the same one year break he gave big business. Would not even think of negotiating. Now that stance is hurting people. Wait one year is fine? What if it was you that was fighting cancer? What if it was you with the preexisting condition? Would a one year wait still be good? Liberals are only happy about this cancerous law as a political win. How many of them are actually signing up for it. The numbers say not a lot.

    November 6, 2013 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  14. Sniffit

    "Or would many here prefer repeal and return to above status-quo?"

    That's precisely what they want. You see, nothing good can be allowed to happen and no help to the masses can be allowed to take place unless it's the GOP/Teatrolls who can take all the credit...otherwise, when they're not in control and able to take all the credit, they simply perceive gov't doing what it's supposed to by helping people as nothing more than the other side "buying votes." That, at core, is what's most driving their hissy fit: 40M people suddenly able to get insurance might be thankful towards those who did it for them.

    November 6, 2013 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  15. c

    I wonder how many people critisizing the web site know how to build one?

    November 6, 2013 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  16. Solon

    The website is the least of ACA problems. Those of us facing 200% premium increases and high co-pays for downgraded coverage see the ACA for what it really is: a massive welfare program. According to the exchange, my new premium for a bronze plan is roughly $6,000.00 a year, no subsidies. On the other hand, "certain people" will get $6,000.00 subsidies and pay $15.00 a month for their coverage.

    My previous policy, which I paid for myself without the help of mommy gubment, was much better coverage, much lower premiums and affordable co-pays.

    November 6, 2013 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  17. Jim

    1 PM in Ohio and healthcare dot gov on the iPad says "Safari cannot open this site, server not found". LOL!

    November 6, 2013 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  18. Mb

    Worked for me. Going through my wife's insurance, it would have cost me 1/2 of what she takes home a month for decent coverage. With California's program, I get excellent coverage through Blue Cross for 95$ a month after tax credits. And, I don't have to change doctors. They sky is not falling folks!

    November 6, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  19. Sniffit


    Please explain in detail what is "communist" (or socialist or Marxist or whatever) about people buying insurance from private companies.

    November 6, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  20. Future Candian

    Attention: All US citizens lets move to Canada.. free healthcare and medications...government pays for it all there

    November 6, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  21. Firstname Lastname

    More reason to chuck the whole thing. Fire everyone involved and and start over. We demand the resignation of Obama today.

    November 6, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  22. brums

    They should hired LL Bean to develop and run their website!

    November 6, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    This is about the worst IT rollout I've seen in a long career as a technology executive. The "vendors" should give their payments back in shame!
    This is so bad it will be difficult to fix "under fire". Why don't we dump it and use the California system, which seems to work fine.
    The idea of every state getting their own IT solution was pretty dumb and a huge waste of taxpayers dollars, but an incompetent Federal department isn't the place to fix it.

    November 6, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  24. Walter

    Oh those laughable libs, they really thought they had it made in the shade blaming Republicans for the government shutdown. No even cares about that anymore, but Obocare will be the gift that keeps on giving to Republicans for years to come. Especially when it turns out a majority of "new" people are going to Medicaid, which means Obocare gets no money, but has to shell out even more. Oh what a megadisaster this is turning out to be....And I love it.!!!!!!

    November 6, 2013 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  25. MariaErics

    A shame that our government could not afford to hire IT people who knew what the heck they were doing and a project manager who knew how to get it pulled together, address issues and roll heads when needed. I am sure the site will eventually get fixed and work well, but as a US taxpayer, whatever amount we paid to the contractors....I want that money back!

    November 6, 2013 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
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