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. Noocray

    I cannot stand this CNN. You're not even tryjng to be fair by acknowledging the state exchanges. All you talk about is the federal exchange made for states with lazy governors who wanted the ACA to fail.

    November 6, 2013 08:05 am at 8:05 am |
  2. Greg

    If this were a private sector corporation the CEO would be fired for lack of oversight.

    November 6, 2013 08:06 am at 8:06 am |
  3. SW

    We are using call centers now to get medical care. Get in line kiddies. The NewSpeak is just beginning. Go out and thank a Demonrat!

    November 6, 2013 08:08 am at 8:08 am |
  4. Fuzio Equity

    CNN ratings will continue to tank if they continue their obsession with Obamacare troubles

    November 6, 2013 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  5. bluesjordan

    Obamacare is unhealthy.

    November 6, 2013 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  6. Greg

    And the worse is yet to come.

    November 6, 2013 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  7. Terik Ororke

    First we are made promises that are not true–then the spin doctors tell us: this is what he really meant and som vague words about if you did "this" or "that" before such and such...then came massive cancellations –then webiste failure and the same idiots are trying to fix it. (Amazon does millions of people every day –hire them!) We have never had transparency despite all the rheoritic –anf people keep voting for the same luatics.

    November 6, 2013 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  8. lol

    Lol. Looks like someone needs IT consults. This is just embarrassing

    November 6, 2013 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  9. bluestater

    shocking. get the guys who run the amazon site in there and just start over. million+ customers a day ordering a million different things.

    November 6, 2013 08:12 am at 8:12 am |
  10. Laura

    It is NOT worse than we thought. It's exactly as bad as we imagined.

    November 6, 2013 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  11. J Robinson

    As Romney noted during the presidential debates, his plan, that worked well on a state level, would not scale well nationally. The truth of his largely ignored assessment is now becoming abundantly clear.

    November 6, 2013 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  12. Tim

    Problem with government run tasks...there is NOTHING we can do, there is NO ONE to protect us, we sit, wait and hope at the mercy of politicians and the political game and must do as we are told. Our ONLY recourse and protection is an objective media giving us the information we need to pool our votes to correct the harm done by the casting of our previous votes. The only recourse and protection from government is the media and that is why ALL governments seek to control it as we see ours being controlled here. It takes bravery and courage to be a good journalist and that is something we seem to have little.

    November 6, 2013 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  13. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Is that right?....
    Well, they're working on it.
    Meanwhile, congratulations to the wonderful people of the state of Virginia!!
    Turns out that Cuccinelli was right. This election was referendum...on Republicans, be they the GOPer type or Teatard.
    Virginia we're moving this country forward, thanks for being a part of that and rejecting those that would see it destroyed and divided for their own personal gains.

    November 6, 2013 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  14. Mete Kroo

    This Obamacare debacle is not a big deal at all. Well it may embarrass people. But one should know that it is the computer they are dealing with which in most cases is imperfect. People who are daily dealing with computer knows this fact. I am working in a large company finance office whose work is mainly working with computers. I can't tell you how many times the computer is failing down. When it fails down everybody upsets. I upset, my supervisors upset and the customers are upset. But the good thing is that these all computers problems are fixable, thanks for the human ingenuity. Computers are created to assist people. But they are not human beings. The computer system in the obamacare would not be perfect at all and it will be fixed when there is failure. That is the whole story.

    November 6, 2013 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  15. Name C. W. Gray

    I wonder why CNN continues to use the term "Obamacare" instead of the legal term. Is it because CNN support the Tea Party or the Republican Party?

    November 6, 2013 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  16. Carl

    So does it matter to the "American People"? Give them lame healthcare, who cares? Higher taxes and escalating national debt? Cities heading towards bankruptcy? So what? The Democrats are in control – what could possibly go wrong?

    November 6, 2013 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  17. Rudy NYC

    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).
    Insurers didn't know if it was covered? Whose fault is that? It's the insurers own fault. Every problem that is described above is technical in nature, most of which are self-inflicted like he example just above. Not one problem described in the article is a direct result of the ACA legislation itself. Not one. It's starting to look like the common denominator to all of the problems has been procrastination.

    November 6, 2013 08:25 am at 8:25 am |
  18. Fr S O

    And it will only get worse!

    November 6, 2013 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  19. Sid

    what have the traffic #s been?

    if the waiting room drop from 95 to 40 corresponds to site traffic that isn't progress, it's your user base giving you the finger...

    November 6, 2013 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  20. Dr Strangelove

    So if you are a skinnny lesbian you need a plan that covers abortions bariatric surgery and maternity?

    November 6, 2013 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  21. noteasilyswayed

    I am still trying to get my identity verified so that I can proceed to purchase the insurance..... I have mailed a copy of my driver's license to them and also emailed a jpeg copy to the web site..... one would think that by now (it's been two weeks since I mailed the copy of my license) they would have been able to verify my identity..... these folks are totally disorganized and maybe even under-staffed..... they will have to extend the sign up period and keep the old cancelled policies in effect for a few more months; it's going to take a long time to fix the problems. It is laughable that they did not come up with a way to process applications by hand if the web site got hung up somehow.

    November 6, 2013 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  22. Kiara

    Hey, I'm still waiting for my identity to be verified. (I was told it should only take 2-3 days...this is almost the third week of me waiting).

    And I can't get any help!

    November 6, 2013 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  23. kris

    If the government can screw this up so bad, do you really want to trust them with your healthcare?

    November 6, 2013 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  24. Ethic's Board

    Does Darrell Issa do anything but complain? If there are problems, why doesn't his committee look for solutions?

    November 6, 2013 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  25. Jason

    Worse then originally thought??? I seemed bad its worse. They didn't bring the "A" team.... and now they want the advice of 'Private" industry leaders??? It proves that its business as usual with political cronies making millions for doing inadequate jobs for the people.

    November 6, 2013 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
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