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. tom l

    "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?

    Sniffit, you're certifiable. This is now TWICE, on this thread alone, where you have injected race into a comment where there was no mention of race. It is again YOU who has made the assumption that "all sizzle and no steak" is a racist comment.

    "All sizzle, no steak" (idiomatic) A thing or person which fails to measure up to its description or advanced promotion.

    Man are you a racist. All you ever do is think about race. I know I'm right about you on that one. The only thing I think I missed was the fact that you just might be, indeed, one of those "paid trolls" that you profess everyone on the right to be. I think you have been outed. It all makes sense to me now.

    Also, it might behoove you to act like the grown up that you tell everyone else to act like. You call people names all of the time yet then tell me not to call you names. It's really hilarious. I do think that if a true independent adult were to look at the comments, they would liken you and your clan (uh oh, I might be called a racist now!) to a 5th grade classroom the way you guys all try to bully around people that don't think like you rather than engage in conversation. It's quite pathetic of you.

    November 6, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  2. JackBriss

    As they say, If you tell a LIE long enough, eventually it becomes Politics.
    B.O. 2103

    November 6, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  3. Denise

    Using dittohead/neo con logic then why she would have to pay for Limbaugh's Viagra or Beck's liver transplant since they have always been standard coverage. Maternity has abeen treated the same as sickness for some time now fools and employers who offered group plans didn't differentiate between male or female. Premiums were based on single, family, single + child, etc. Back away from talk radio!

    November 6, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  4. PoliticiansRCrooks

    If you had treated it like a tax, treated it like medicare it would be viable but it is so utterly unviable and unsustainable that one thing is clear, Americans were LIED to. AGAIN.

    November 6, 2013 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  5. Malory Archer


    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?


    For the same reason that women of childbearing age are required to have coverage for male "enhancement" drugs and to cover vasectomies and other procedures exclusive to men.

    November 6, 2013 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  6. Delayit

    In light of all these issues , just not the website, I do believe the requirement to be enrolled or face penalty needs to be delayed. I did vote for Obama . but instead of shouting out Obama is Kenyan like typical wingnuts the problem are extended beyond the website. As such, Obama needs to fold to the Republicans call to have this requirement delayed.

    November 6, 2013 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  7. PoliticiansRCrooks

    Worse than six people signed up the first day (and some of them may have opted out and taken the fine???) Hard to believe.

    November 6, 2013 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  8. elizabeth

    Who is Obama? A street organizer? An he was allowed to take over this countries health care. We never were allowed to see his school transcripts, why? Now we know.

    November 6, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  9. steve

    It is funny to me how someone who is our president can mess up so bad and we have people that try to rip on Rush Limbaugh...a talk show host. Nice, just goes to show why we are where we are. Let's just continue to not hold people accountable for giant mistakes and act like it is not a big deal. It is only tax payer money anyways, right?

    November 6, 2013 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  10. ME

    All should be fired!

    November 6, 2013 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  11. downinaggieland98


    "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. "

    So basically, you don't mind the blatant lie of "if you like it, you can keep it?" How about when he promised a family of 4 would save $2,500 over the year? How many people can realistically pay double? This comment just boggles my mind! You make it sound like we should be thanking him for putting us in financial strain for a product we may or may not want!!

    November 6, 2013 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  12. tom l

    Shall we talk about the "average American is going to save $2500" yet or was that just another "misstatement"?

    November 6, 2013 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  13. Denise

    Rush is a 'big' boy and can defend himself. Funny how now he is just an 'entertainer' and not Boss Hogg. Wonder how many seconds the delay is from FAUX or right wingnut radio to cut and paste on this website? Dittoheads need to get out from repeating the same mantra year in and year out with the same bad results. Or, better yet, get a job or work harder at the drive through you already are at instead of changing the radio dial 24/7....

    November 6, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  14. Grooveman

    The problem now is not the delivery system of the program, it’s the program itself. Not the computer screen but what’s inside the program. This is something you can’t get the IT guy to fix.

    They said if you liked your insurance you could keep your insurance—but that’s not true. It was never true! They said if you liked your doctor you could keep your doctor—but that’s not true. It was never true! They said they would cover everyone who needed it, and instead people who had coverage are losing it—millions of them! They said they would make insurance less expensive—but it’s more expensive! Premium shock, deductible shock. They said don’t worry, your health information will be secure, but instead the whole setup looks like a hacker’s holiday. Bad guys are apparently already going for your private information.

    The New York Times reports that while millions may qualify for enough federal subsidies to pay the entire monthly cost of some health-insurance plans, the zero premiums come with some “serious trade-offs.” What serious trade-offs? Most of these plans, called the bronze policies, “require people to pay the most in out-of-pocket costs, for doctor visit and other benefits like hospital stays.” Huh? I thought the purpose of the law was to help with the cost of doctor visits and hospital stays!

    November 6, 2013 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  15. DT

    The 3.8% medicare surtax will remain in effect, as will higher insurance premiums. So we will be paying more, but nobody is benefitting.

    November 6, 2013 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  16. tom l

    This is just, quite simply, the "ends justify the means". Liberals don't care how you get there. Very much out of the Saul Alinsky playbook.

    November 6, 2013 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  17. tom l

    To quote the late, great Ted Kennedy: "Week after week after week we were told lie after lie after lie"

    November 6, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  18. williamsunset

    Keep calm people. 2016 when we're having a republican president again, first thing he'll do is to etch-a-sketch this ridiculous Obamacare.

    November 6, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  19. freedomliker

    If Obamacare was a fighter the bout would be stopped. If it were a business website the CEO and the IT director would be fired. If it was anything but a government service our expectations would be completely diffrerent. What a sad example of everything that has gone wrong in Washington DC.

    November 6, 2013 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  20. TSB8C

    HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius admitted today that it was possible convicted felons could be hired as ObamaCare ‘navigators,’ giving them access to personal information like Social Security numbers and addresses of anyone signing up for the program. The government can't build an ecommerce web site and also can't protect private data.

    November 6, 2013 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  21. Torey101

    Is it too soon to say, "I told you so! I told you so! I told you so!" Not sure of the proper etiquette. Someone consult The Emily Post Book of Manners and get back to me. In the meantime, I will be sitting here LMAO at all the Lefties trying desperately to put lipstick and pearls on this pig. Jeeez... you people really CAN'T see past your ideology, can you?!?!?!

    November 6, 2013 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  22. tony

    blah, blah, least the insurance companies are being forced to compete with each other. when the website is fully functional watch out GOP.....its OVER. keep it up.

    November 6, 2013 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  23. KK

    I seem to remember that we were told that if we liked our current insurance plan, then nothing would change because of the new Affordable Healthcare Act. I just went out to the mail today and got a letter from my insurance company and from my husband's insurance company. My insurance premium is increasing, and his insurance plan will no longer be available in 2014. I am furious. We take good care of ourselves and do not even use our healthcare insurance. We pay our over $500 a month as it is. Now the rates are increasing. UNBELIEVABLE!!!

    November 6, 2013 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  24. Gene

    Insurance companies have been scamming people for years . Now that there is a political party willing help all citizens get affordable insurance people are listening to a bias network. Why isn't CNN focusing on the job bill being held up my Tepublicans? You people are fooling yourself. The truth will be revealed when Rep take over! Only then will you see the light.

    November 6, 2013 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  25. Torey101

    The sad part is that they had an easy out by pushing back the deadline and they could have blamed the Republicans. But our stubborn and prideful King Obummer once again threw Americans under the bus and rolled it out even though it wasn't ready just to give the finger to the House. Leadership...? I think NOT.

    November 6, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
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