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. comonsenseman

    Our president lied and is now lying again. His administration and certain media talking heads are also lying. How can anyone support this? Please don't excuse it by saying that "every politician does it".

    November 6, 2013 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  2. Denise

    These breaking news alerts remind me of the local weather anchor who interrupts your favorite fball or bball team in an important game to tell you about a dark, looming cloud three miles to the South, but there are no watches or warnings......

    November 6, 2013 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  3. Malory Archer


    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....


    Sounds like you insurance company is trying to scam you or frighten you in order to make you hate "Obamacare". Humana is in hot water in KY for the letters they're sending policy holders advising that their policies are being cancelled and that they'll be pushed into plans that cost more. Truth is Humana is only giving those policy holders the price for the highest plan. In fact, the lies have gotten so bad that they Humana was forced to run an open letter in advising TriCare recipients of the fact that they lied. I didn't get a letter, but apparently some military members/vets did because they've been spouting so much misinformation that the military had to get involved. LOL – imagine the bitter disappointment the rethug/teabag toddler congresscritters must feel when the truth comes out!

    November 6, 2013 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  4. Malory Archer


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


    Safari kinda sucks. I get booted off their browser so often that I've downloaded Firefox. Works like a charm!

    November 6, 2013 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  5. congruence

    I hope if they decide to post those pages online that they get someone else to handle the task.

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

    As a physician, this is just a sign of how poor the implementation will be from our side as well. The problem for us is that we will not have as much public outrage that we treated patients for months and and won't be paid for god knows how long if at all. I have actually been waiting for over 4 months for my completed medicare contract to be made effective. I would bet dollars to doughnuts that the debacle on the patient side will be nothing compared to what physicians will face.

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

    "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."

    You clearly don't understand. The states were supposed to do it themselves and simply accept the funding for it. It was designed to create the system, yes, but it was designed to do so in a way that allowed the states to maintain as much control and autonomy over those systems and use their unique knowledge of their state, their administrative agencies, etc., to work with the insurers in their state to do this THEMSELVES. The red states all expressed precisely those concerns and made precisely those demands. In their fit of pique...their wild and inconsolable temper tantrum...they engaged in the hypocrisy of ceding all of that state control and state authority and state autonomy to the federal gov't because they saw it as an opportunity to overload the system and cause precisely these problems. Your comment evinces a complete misunderstanding of how the statutory framework was structured.

    November 6, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  8. atticus

    NASA figured out decades ago that if you want to do something complicated, you need to outsource it to the private sector. Every important job on a NASA project is done by contractors because they know it will fail otherwise.

    Obama, on the other hand, believes in big government. he made the mistake of handing project management responsibility to Federal bureaucrats. Rookie mistake.

    November 6, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  9. Malory Archer

    Future Candian

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


    With you tax dollars. Contrary to what the reichwing screaming heads tell you, there's no such thing as a free lunch for anyone.

    November 6, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  10. Gloria

    Why don't we all just take a deep breath and count to 10 before giving up on Obamacare? It IS the law. In my opinion, and of course I could be wrong, I believe that in time the computer problem will be fixed. Also, as the deadline for enrollment gets closer, more and more people will enroll. This is what happened with Romneycare when it was introduced in MA.

    November 6, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  11. Tim

    I agree with what another said... being in IT myself you almost always need a phased rollout to have success. The problem is execs without IT expertise think "isn't it easier to just do the whole country rather than start perhaps with one market in one state?". I've advocated in projects before to rollout in one market or location before trying to implement in dozens. Every single time I've seen it attempted to launch anything of scale all at once... it is very very painful and has tons of bugs and unexpected errors. There is no way to minimize the exposure. That is why you start rolling production systems out a bit at a time unless you want to deal with people freaking when it doesn't work. But eventually... the bugs get worked out and the system gets re-factored to meet requirements. it will be months though before it is 99.9% there and will probably only be 95% of the way there for the foreseeable future. The site though is actually usable enough now for you to go on and see the pain of what these policies cost. I really believe single payer is going to be the only solution. Without Obamacare, we pay just as much or more anyway. Nothing really about it drives costs up... it does drive them down. But just not enough. We can't cover everybody affordably and have insurance companies profiting off the sick.

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

    Early report nonsense brought to you by the rolling doughnut EIB network.....

    November 6, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  13. Sniffit

    "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"."

    They do all the time. Remember Windows Vista? Remember the maps issues with the iPhone? The list is endless. You're just regurgitating a talking point that "sounds" good, but really has no substance behind it whatsoever.

    November 6, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  14. LearnUSA

    funny how nothing about the ACA was on CNN yesterday during voting....

    Anyway there really is no excuse. people are getting what is coming to them. you place cheese in front of a mouse and he will come and bite every time even while seeing its fellow mice all with their necks broke...

    Dems = Mice get used to it America

    November 6, 2013 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  15. averagejoe

    My 2014 monthly premium went up and my plan cancelled my "top-tier" coverage. Now I have higher co-pays for every service including my annual max out of pocket went thru the roof! The only people paying "less for better coverage" are those getting it free or highly subsidized. This is not a political statement but I challenge every American to look at what they paid in Dec 2014 compared to Dec 2013 and tell me you are getting more for less. Hopefully people will not be too stupid to understand basic math.

    November 6, 2013 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  16. Malory Archer


    re: AJ

    The reason for the heavy criticism is this system was shoved down our throats without bi-partisan support.


    Due to the fact that the rethug/teabag toddlers announced on election day 2008 that they would oppose EVERYTHING President-elect Obama was for – including THEIR OWN LEGISLATION! The ACA cleared the Senate with 60 votes. That the rethugs/teabag toddlers were none of those 60 is on them.

    November 6, 2013 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  17. Michael D

    How is that so called change working for all those who wanted it? Just wait till the money press stops turning!

    November 6, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  18. Sniffit

    "saw the sizzle but never the steak. They saw the show but not the go"

    Wanna add in "shuck and jive" just for good measure, Grand Dragon?

    November 6, 2013 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  19. Rudy NYC


    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.
    Your complaint is not credible when you do not tell us where you are buying it. Most of the red states, without state exchanges, higher prices are being charged because there is less competition between insurers. There have been instances of insurers charging double or triple the price for the same product in different states.

    I find it most likely that you're in a red state, one which uses the troubled web site. It also means that you most likely haven't gotten a quote, yet, and that your numbers are entirely made up.....just like the folks on Hannity a couple of weeks ago.

    November 6, 2013 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  20. Bob


    "Why don't we all just take a deep breath and count to 10 before giving up on Obamacare? It IS the law. In my opinion, and of course I could be wrong, I believe that in time the computer problem will be fixed."

    Or maybe we can count the lies we have been told.

    November 6, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  21. cumulus

    Anyone paying 72,000 a year needs to call the cops, your gettin screwed

    November 6, 2013 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  22. WR

    Welcome to the Age of Obama. Socialize is what everyone wants until they get it. Then they realize Socialize is just the Government playing God with other people's money. Problem with that is eventually you run out of other peoples money.

    And remember, a declaration of Marshall Law in this country suspends the Presidental Election process. I wonder what the first think the POTUS will do when Obamacare cause this countries economic colapse will be?

    November 6, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  23. nomad2003

    Three and half years.. fully funded, in total over 1 billion (and climbing, need to add in HHS personel and MISmanagment) for a website that does not work. The project plan was wrong from the start. Flaws were know before the Oct. 1 date.
    if Mr Obama had bothered to read the IBD on sept 25th, tests for Florida were producing 0 (zero cost for everyone), data transfers (medicare, IRS, etc) was not working, data hub security not tested at all, premium prices wrong for most states.

    These folks are going to determine what service should cost? This organization is taking over 1/6th of the economy?

    This is and will cause over 129 million people lose the policies, as related by Christopher Conover at the the Center for Health Policy at Duke. so YOU CAN KEEP YOUR POLICY IF YOU LIKE IT, is a big lie ( use lie now, because of the Oct 30th speech which it was resated)
    And the new policy has different networks, so the YOU CAN KEEP YOUR DOCTOR IF YOU LIKE YOUR DOCTOR, is a lie.
    And Avik Roy of the Manhattan Institute calculates the adverage increase across the country is a rise of 41%.

    And once know as a liar, how can one believe anything said by the liar.

    November 6, 2013 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  24. Denise

    Thank goodness the neocons, teabaggers and dittoheads have all day to tune in and listen to genius minds such as Rush and Sean and Glenn. Who knew that in addition to being experts on addiction, women, morality, fitness and junk food, they also are world renowned experts on the economy, constitution, patriotism and now healthcare. This is very impressive to me given how they have never worked a real job or are even educated. It just goes to show how you, too, living in red states can be uneducated and still make millions off of your own stupidity and the stupidity of the same like minded thinkers! Snooki, Kardashians and Paris Hilton, move over!

    November 6, 2013 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  25. Me


    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
    First, it is Obamacare, liberals STILL refer to the tax cuts in Bush's presidency as the "Bush tax cuts" so YES it is and ALWAYS will be obamacare. Funny now that everyone is learning the truth, liberals are trying their hardest to get their name off the crappy law!!! Next, when you stop beating the "WMD" dead horse, then you can talk until then this will be reported on over and over and will NOT be let go, can you say hypocrite...!!!! The WMD dead horse was over 10 YEARS ago, this is still VERY NEW and harming millions of Americans, I hope they never stop until the law is repealed!!! Last, those "three republicans" are trying to help these millions that are being harmed so no they don't need to get a life they need to keep up the GOOD work until the law is history!!!!

    November 6, 2013 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16