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. tayllor1234

    This is not worse than thought, this is exactly what we thought would happen when the government got involved with health care.

    November 6, 2013 06:25 am at 6:25 am |
  2. are122

    Put it out of it's misery.

    November 6, 2013 06:25 am at 6:25 am |
  3. Greg

    I applied for coverage on October 10th. The application process was a complete nightmare and I still have not been able to complete it. Ive read everyones articles and complaints but no one has covered the isues that I am having. My application has been stck in the "pending identity verification" for 3 weeks. I have called the call center numerous times and am being told that I am experiencing the same issues as thousands of other applicants. They are just backed up cannot keep up with the volume. As instructed I downloaded my state drivers license 4 times, mailed a photocopy 2 times and nothing has worked. The call center told me to call Experian. I have spoken with them 4 different times and no one can help there either. Clock is ticking and I am stuck in limboland due to a simple identity verification check.

    November 6, 2013 06:27 am at 6:27 am |
  4. bearitstrong

    all this bad news will give right-wingers even more to cackle over

    November 6, 2013 06:29 am at 6:29 am |
  5. watash60

    He got your votes that is all he cares about

    November 6, 2013 06:33 am at 6:33 am |
  6. Goodguy6410

    It's clearly evident that this website, just like the law that is behind it, is a giant cluster. Should anyone have ANY doubts, just wait. We're in a heck of a ride. Thanks Obama!

    November 6, 2013 06:36 am at 6:36 am |
  7. Adam

    Nice of them to save this story until after elections.

    November 6, 2013 06:37 am at 6:37 am |
  8. Guest

    Breaking news, the government is terrible at administering huge programs. More at 11.

    November 6, 2013 06:39 am at 6:39 am |
  9. resonance

    This is like discussing which channel to have on your TV as your house burns down. The site problems only disrupt enrollment, a temporary inconvenience. The Obamacare program itself disrupts health care for life! It's main function is to guarantee a stream of revenue to the tort attorneys and insurance execs. It is much like the plan to guarantee a stream of revenue to the central bankers when the income tax and The Fed were created in the same year. Haven't you ever wondered why the US needs external private banker families to create money supply from nothing when it could have done that itself? Get a clue, people.

    November 6, 2013 06:41 am at 6:41 am |
  10. mmsnc

    This is precursor for Obamacare, instead of waiting on a website we will soon be waiting on care. Does anyone believe the need to cover covering those without coverage required disrupting coverage for everyone.

    November 6, 2013 06:44 am at 6:44 am |
  11. NoCommentCNN

    This will be the best the ACA performance will get. To say nothing about how the "Affordable" part somehow was left out of the program.

    November 6, 2013 06:47 am at 6:47 am |
  12. 007

    One good thing to come out of this is I have a better appreciation of my health care insurance. I used to complain about how much it costs, but at least it works when I need it.

    November 6, 2013 06:53 am at 6:53 am |
  13. Fluffer Nutter

    There ya go, socialists. You're 'Great Idea' is a flop. What's just as bad is if it had been a success the Republicans would have wished they thought it up. Or maybe the socialist Democrats stole the idea from the Republicans? Whatever. Either way, it's a crap idea and it needs to be repealed. If wasn't so expensive to receive treatment for illness in this country this never would have become an issue in the first place. Address the issue at it's core and don't use the bullcrap notion of universal healthcare as a bandaid to fix it.

    November 6, 2013 06:53 am at 6:53 am |
  14. mark

    careful cnn the WH will take you off their advertiser list

    November 6, 2013 06:56 am at 6:56 am |
  15. Brad

    How do you roll out an untested system. And this was done by the people that run this Country. Pretty scary.
    We definitely need change!

    November 6, 2013 06:59 am at 6:59 am |
  16. Name Gilgamesh

    It's funny how CNN waits until afer the elections to finally state te obvious. What good is "news" if it'S late?

    November 6, 2013 07:04 am at 7:04 am |
  17. Gurgyl

    Once this glitch is fixed all get suppressed. ACA is a Law. Period. USA needs this for a long, long time.

    November 6, 2013 07:06 am at 7:06 am |
  18. dave

    lol an djust who thought it was any better? The hand out junkies?

    November 6, 2013 07:13 am at 7:13 am |
  19. joe

    Obamacare is just like its creator...a total flop!!!! Do the USA a favor and resign!!!!!

    November 6, 2013 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  20. Tampa Tim

    Red states had every opportunity to create their own exchanges, and refused to do so, in hopes to hurt the implementation. Florida elected officials have decided that it is better to hurt over 5 million residents, in order to embarrass the president. By the way, I am already tired of the Koch Brothers' anti Crist television ads.

    November 6, 2013 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  21. Rick McDaniel

    EVERYTHING about Obama, is far worse, than anyone recognizes. The entire country has been led down the primrose path.

    November 6, 2013 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  22. Tampa Tim

    By the way, do the Koch ads in FL make Scott the anti Crist?

    November 6, 2013 07:19 am at 7:19 am |
  23. Grey

    Obamacare launch worse than thought... in two years will read: Obamacare worse than thought.

    November 6, 2013 07:19 am at 7:19 am |
  24. chris_SF

    haven't these people ever heard of a pilot or phased rollout? Start in one state (or even smaller subbfoup), work out the kinks, then expand the deployment. I've been in enterprise software deployment for almost twenty years. This is one of the first lessons you learn in my field.

    November 6, 2013 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  25. G_Edwards

    Or as Pres Obama would put it, "Things were not a good as we expected."


    November 6, 2013 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
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