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. Fair is fair

    Wait till the real suffering begins!

    November 6, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  2. sofork

    What did you expect from Obama, Pelosi and Reid? They lied and created a big mess all by themselves and do not know what to do or how to fix it. Now, who can they blame except for themselves?

    November 6, 2013 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  3. Frank

    My only confusion is,

    Is the website going to offer only bad health insurances because it's causing problems? Or they are not related at all?

    November 6, 2013 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  4. roccotaco

    You could not dream up a worse nightmare for America. This monster(Obamacare) will completely destroy the greatest health system the world has ever seen. Yes, some people with special problems should have been helped but not the entire system destroyed and it appears they did it on purpose.

    November 6, 2013 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  5. Enron times 10,000?

    We're going to need a lot of toilet paper to clean this mess up...

    November 6, 2013 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  6. Denise

    How'd the etch n sketch clown work out for you before? Still quoting Gallup polls?

    November 6, 2013 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  7. Ivan

    Did anyone ever expect this to work.
    Just look at either your local DMV office and see how efficient that is.

    November 6, 2013 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  8. Wallaceboy

    Wouldn't it be refreshing if he just stood up and told the truth? If he admitted his error and said "time out….we are going to start over and see if we can do this right…"
    This whole debacle has showcased his enormous ego and lack of character. There are so many things to not like about this guy but in the end, his lack of character trumps all. I would like to know how those who voted for him feel now? I have consistently been a critic but do most "progressives" still feel OK about him? Most on this site have always been critical of Barry but would love to see some perspective from former supporters….

    November 6, 2013 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  9. Taken4granted

    Wake up, Americans! OBAMA LIED. Millions of insurance cancellations were issued, forcing everyone to sign up on this ACA site. There were no problems on the existing insurance that we paid for, can afford to pay for. On top of that, the insurance premiums come 2014 are NOT affordable, it is higher premiums than our current 2013 policies. It is the middle class that will shoulder the burden of paying for US government healthcare welfare programs and paying for the cost of setting these ACA website in the billion. Who in their right mind will sign for ACA via this website when SECURITY RISK is on the table.

    November 6, 2013 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  10. Torey101

    According to Sebiliuos' testimony:
    “Isn’t it true that there is no federal requirement for navigators to undergo a criminal background check,” Cornyn asked her.

    “That is true,” Sebelius answered. “States could add in additional background checks and other features, but it is not part of the federal requirement.”

    Cornyn pressed, “So a convicted felon could be a navigator and could acquire sensitive personal information from an individual unbeknownst to them?”

    Sebelius answered, “This is possible.

    This folks, is REAL news. What you people refer to as "Faux"

    November 6, 2013 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
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