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. drc

    It's no shock to me that 'anything' run by our illustrious Government is and will be a failure. Sorry, there is not ONE Government program that works or is fully funded or is efficient. That is not to say healthcare needs to be addressed/fixed but a 2700 page bill (that was never read before being passed) was a 'feel good' vote for something that needs to be addressed but this won't solve it.

    So much for Obama's signature bill but that is what you get when you elect someone that never so much as held a real job in his entire life. Anyone with his same background would never have made it past a single primary so we all know why he got as far as he did.

    November 6, 2013 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  2. Ron

    ‘No matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise to the American people: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health-care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health-care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.”

    -Hussein Obama 2009

    November 6, 2013 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  3. dan

    It comes down to this those how get free healthcare like it and those that can not pay for higher cost or losing there doctor or job don’t.

    November 6, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  4. fletcher

    Obama is doing the very best that he can......and that's what our problem is.

    November 6, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  5. Michael Benjamin

    Interesting the the contractors would admit how inept they were in each of their particular areas of expertise.

    November 6, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  6. billisnice

    The site is very complicated. It tries to balance cost so all wall street healthcare folks get a chunks of the action. There is no competition.

    November 6, 2013 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  7. drc

    So what sort of contract was signed for this tragic website that was built? Usually a X-amount of money is paid upfront and the remainder when a fully functioning website is complete. Perhaps in the Government spending billions of the sheep's money means nothing since you can just keep spending with no one to question it.

    The good news is by the time Big O is out of office, he would have doubled the debt, at least he is good at spending.

    November 6, 2013 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  8. Sniffit

    "There's nothing, nothing less efficient than government. "

    Yes there is: the private insurance industry. While the private insurance industry is still bucking like an angry mule over provisions in the ACA that limit their overhead to 20%, Medicare runs (depending on the study) with approximately 1.5%-3.0% overhead.

    Your move, Jethro.

    November 6, 2013 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  9. Dwayne

    Democrats and Obama are saying "everything that's new has start up issues". Excuse me, if Microsoft rolled out this kind of mess, or Apple, or Sprint, etc, they wouldn't get away with saying "give us time, we'll get it right, it's new". People would be fired, stock holders would flee, you name it. But the government can blow up $300 million dollars and still can't get it right.

    November 6, 2013 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  10. Ron

    The limp wristed, American flag burning, tip toe through the tulips with abortion doctors and trannys, moderating here hate the truth and reality so they delete truthful comments.

    November 6, 2013 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  11. Sniffit

    "Hussein fails again."

    You reveal your bigotry/racism yet again.

    November 6, 2013 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  12. jpm

    Not worse than Republicans have been warning. Democrats own this 100%. I think that everyone that voted for Obama should be forced to be on Obamacare. This is their fault. they own it.

    November 6, 2013 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  13. Richard

    Wait till the sight is working, and people see how expensive it is. Even with a small tax credit, it is unaffordable.

    November 6, 2013 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  14. Jean Sartre

    No government IT rollout plan has went smoothly. Bush's Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Program took 2-years to get it all together, and that only covered about 50M people. This is the largest IT project ever launched; only a 2-brain cell human would expect this to be smooth...

    November 6, 2013 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  15. Amanda

    President Obama has lost all credibility.

    November 6, 2013 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  16. LarryG

    The Mayor of Toronto confesses that he may have designed the Obamacare website while in a drunken stupor.

    November 6, 2013 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  17. omeany

    Whenever we really want something as a nation we tolerate almost anything in the process of getting it. For instance when we as a nation wanted to go to the moon we tolerated all kinds or mistakes and finally we got there.

    Heath care should be available to all Americans. The only reason it is not is because we have many people who are greedy and stupid. Once we overcome these 2 obstacles we will find it much easier to do the right thing regrdless as to how many hardships we run across.

    November 6, 2013 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  18. George

    It's amazing...we all know he can't come back for another term.....but they are expending all this attention on things he did wrong or could have done the morons realize this is all for nothing? Usually during a second term the country can come together knowing that no matter what gets said the incumbent is out....are we this stupid people?

    November 6, 2013 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  19. BJNJ

    Just more evidence that our rock star is a total incompetent. He was elected because the stupids saw the sizzle but never the steak. They saw the show but not the go. Obama never had any executive experience and the obamacare launch proves it. I TOLD YOU SO in 2007, BUT NOOOOOOOOOOO you wouldn't listen. Believed the "change"....then you stupidly re-elected this incompetent because of the "entitlements". We need a commander and chief, not a wimp with a blackberry! Obama RESIGN BJNJ

    November 6, 2013 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  20. Tim

    worse than WHO realized? It was as bad as it could get. Nothing in any of this should suprise anybody. The site simply didn't work on Oct 1. We've known that. Going back to what it was like on day one and talking over the bugs then is like talking how horrible it was when Twitter's system went off line for days in its early roll out... or talking about how awful the iOS7 release was or Apple's broken map system the first two weeks... or the first two months of World of Warcraft when database lag made it nearly unplayable at times. Some of the most popular websites had catastrophic failures at times. Ebay went down for several days many years in and cost the company tens of millions. Credit card companies have their data hacked frequently. it's documented hackers have hit the pentagon.

    Fact is... yes it was a bad launch. Like many bad launches of many sites. It's not like is the only website to launch with a ton of problems. They should have delayed the rollout. The other part that is just so painful is health insurance is not cheap. Nobody is going to be excited to get to pay for this stuff unless you have pre-existing conditions.

    November 6, 2013 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  21. ShawnDH

    Obamacare will be fine. It's a reasonable law that will help tens of millions of Americans get affordable health insurance. Some website rollout problems aren't that big of a deal. It took MA over two years to get the kinks worked out and "Romneycare" is a success. MA has the healthiest population in the country with the lowest uninsured rate.

    I support Obamacare and I especially like that it took action against the immoral and predatory practices of the for-profit insurance industry.

    November 6, 2013 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  22. Mark

    re: AJ

    The reason for the heavy criticism is this system was shoved down our throats without bi-partisan support. Yeah, you can complain the Republicans didn't want it, but it's the job of a leader to find common ground and create an inclusive environment. When a policy is one-sided, the other will have no interest in its success. The fact that our leadership is not dropping their plan to shop the marketplace is telling. Just like they dictated everyone will participate in SS except themselves. Our government is trillions in debt and THIS is the organization you think will fix healthcare costs? That's a mess BOTH parties created and this mess will only add to it.

    November 6, 2013 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  23. Sniffit

    "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. "

    Why should they? When the GOP's Medicare Part D had a similar website debacle upon rollout, the Dems worked to help them fix it. They didn't work to ruin it further or hamper it being fixed or further break its implementation and demand its repeal: they worked to help fix it. It's now (aside from the part about it being unfunded) considered a decent success story and helps millions of people. Why did it go down that way? Because it's not ingrained in the Dem/liberal mindset to view any attempt of the other party to help the people of this country as a vote-grab that is dangerous to their own party's survival. The GOP/Teatroll types, however, view anything the other side is doing to help people as a vote-grab that must be stopped at all costs. Why? Because demographic shifts are killing their party.

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

    "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. !!!!"

    Who wants to get into the argument about the racist underpinnings of the GOP/Teatrolls' 5 year hissy fit NOW? Hmmm? Come at me...

    November 6, 2013 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  25. Richard Mitchell

    II'm still trying to get high speed internet, so I'm use to computer screw ups. Bill Gates put out windows 7 with all kinds of screw ups. His fix was to come out with Windows Vista. Yep, it was even worse, but it did make Windows 7 look better. After years of fixing Gates came out with Windows 8. As long as you have a touch screen computer it works greats. ObamaCare compared to Windows is a babe in diapers and you know what babies do in diapers. Give time and the fixes will work. Tired of seeing my friends die because they can't afford health insurance and much less the high cost to see a Doctor.

    November 6, 2013 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
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