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. Guest

    do you think Obama believes we don't know a lie when we hear one?

    November 6, 2013 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  2. jimmie

    More proof that Obama is a pathological liar.
    Americans don't seem to mind that their king is a liar though !

    November 6, 2013 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  3. Dallas

    What is that thing the president does with his nose when he's lying? Is that something else making him do that nose wipe reaction without a hanky?

    November 6, 2013 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  4. Sniffit

    "e 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?"."

    Wow. The ACA was written to allow and fund each state to do it themselves and maintain state control and state autonomy over their own exchange website by dong it themselves, so your characterization of this as nobody thinking of that is absurd and a lie.

    November 6, 2013 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  5. Denise

    Listening to Rush Limbaugh give his take on healthcare costs and the ACA is like giving an extra plate of cheeseburgers and fries to someone recovering from open heart surgery or slipping another illegal drug in someone's drink......Wait, never mind, that would already be Rush we're talking about.

    November 6, 2013 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  6. Steve

    discovering politicians have a tendency to lie... is like discovering bears sleep in the woods. come on folks... try and be less gullible.

    November 6, 2013 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  7. congruence

    If only the site was the worst of it all.

    November 6, 2013 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  8. Denise

    Like folks living in red states come anywhere near making 72k a year!!

    November 6, 2013 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  9. Rudy NYC

    "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."
    Oh, I think that I'm with you on this. Let's build a single mega-wet site that handles everyone, so that when it has problems then everyone is screwed. Gotcha.

    November 6, 2013 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  10. chris

    I cant keep my healthcare either unless I pay double. But right-wingers should stop whining. I found out WHY my healthcare was so really WAS substandard. The govt is making sure everyone is ACTUALLY COVERED. For the first time in my life, everyone in the country will have the ability to organize a system where they are not left out in the cold when sick. This is fantastic. Just ;like you're not allowed to drive a car without it having passed a test, so you can't have hokey, half-ass and dangerous healthcare any more. It's OK. And if you can't afford it, you get help. The system being put in place looks WAAAAAY better than Medicare. I say whoever gets Medicare – good for you. But I never could. Now I know I'll be covered and that the plan will not be some laughable plan for poor people that woould still break me cos I'm not covered for anything really. Good for you Obama – don't listen to the haters. Now go close your stoopid NSA or I'll never vote for you again

    November 6, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  11. GatorDude

    At times like these, I wish that the House and Senate would read every bill they vote on.

    November 6, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  12. ketrout

    Obamacare should have never been passed. It will continue to hurt the American people and the cost will continue to climb. This law should have been read before even coming to the floor for a vote.

    Pure stupid, having to pass a bill just to find out what is in it!

    November 6, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  13. chris

    Look at it like THIS;
    I cant keep my healthcare either unless I pay double. But right-wingers should stop whining. I found out WHY my healthcare was so really WAS substandard. The govt is making sure everyone is ACTUALLY COVERED. For the first time in my life, everyone in the country will have the ability to organize a system where they are not left out in the cold when sick.

    November 6, 2013 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  14. guest

    Can we please have a re-call election?

    November 6, 2013 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  15. Eagle0521

    With liberals, when you lie about a lie it becomes the truth. Priceless! Worst administration in history. Hands down! Google "Venezuela healthcare in collapse" and get a preview of things to come under government controlled healthcare.

    November 6, 2013 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  16. Billrich2

    You people are absolutely amazing. Who are "they" that couldn't see this coming miles away?!?

    November 6, 2013 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  17. Dutch

    I signed up on 11/1. Quick and painless, no waiting what so every.

    November 6, 2013 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  18. Mike

    Ya, obama the idiot really screwed this up. I tried making an account on the site, and it kept giving me issues, so I gave up. Way to go. I hope to see him impeached.

    November 6, 2013 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  19. B. McKay

    If there was ever a country that could screw up Universal Healthcare, it's the great and powerful U.S. of A. Every modern developed country on the planet has it. It's affordable and IT WORKS. How can a country that can put a man on the moon (with Canada's help btw) not be able to see the benefits of Universal Healthcare? What is it it because a man of colour pushed it through? Or is it because the ACA is a totally bastardized version of REAL Universal Healthcare. Great and mighty U.S. pppfffttt...yeah right.
    Then again you can't make good beer, good whiskey or good food.

    November 6, 2013 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  20. Jason G

    Ugh... The same people who hated Obamacare are now complaining that people can't get signed up for it fast enough. Well, you've got to hate something I guess.

    November 6, 2013 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  21. Sniffit

    "Pure stupid, having to pass a bill just to find out what is in it!"

    Pure stupid, believing that nonsense despite the RWNJs manufacturing very specific, detailed demagoguery of the ACA that could only have been done if they had read the statute THOROUGHLY!

    November 6, 2013 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  22. AFvet

    Could someone praising how 'everything is now covered' explain to me why men and women over, say 50, should pay for maternity care when they won't be getting pregnant? (Most of the women by then won't be, and I'm pretty sure the men won't!) Along with various other types of coverage. People should NOT have to pay for coverage they don't want or need.

    November 6, 2013 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  23. Cindy

    DISASTER – all promises broken and their will be less insured and less healthcare provided. If you can't first do no harm then the premise of helping the needy is a waste. This country really need changes in the healthcare system, but this is the absolute wrong direction. If you live in the wrong state and below the poverty line, you get no medicare or the option to pay the minimum for healthcare in the Affordable Care act, you have to pull the full amount or go without help. Also, be aware if you take the subsidies you may be shocked you owe money in tax season because you received a bonus or raise. What happens if you fall below the poverty level after you filed for insurance, do you owe it all back. These questions are not being answered, just like what is the actual premium amount or what the plan actually contains. It's all deception and who loses the most needy in this country, because of what I call do gooders (want to do good no matter what the cost or that's a success).

    November 6, 2013 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  24. deee510

    How many times is this story going to get recycled?obama bashing stories will not get you

    November 6, 2013 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  25. Frank

    Worse than thought? Those mean ol nasty "REPUBLICANS" didn't sign off on it FOR A REASON!


    Cancelling millions of peoples insurance and give them policies 3 to 10 times HIGHER than they were paying.

    November 6, 2013 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
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