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. John Paul

    This is what happens when the wishful thinking of communism – that 1) everything will be okay because I (i.e., the communist) am in charge and 2) that money grows on trees: Communism meets reality and reality wins.

    November 6, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  2. Rudy NYC


    My insurance is going up next year. From $1800 to almost $4000!!! Thank you Mr President!!!!
    Is that employer provided, or private market? Do you qualify for a subsidy? In which state is this occurring? Some insurers are charging vastly different prices for the identical policies in different states. The higher prices are usually being charged in states that do not have their own exchange, mostly because there is less competition in those states. Many states without their own exchange may have as few as 2 companies offering policies. While those states that do have their own exchanges may have as many as 7 to 12 companies offering policies ... and cheaper prices.

    November 6, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  3. gstlab3

    I hope everyone is happy the way vote turned out yesterday.,
    I do'nt think it matters when you really look at who these people are and where they are coming from and where they end up going.
    This is a fine hot mess the so called leaders have brought to the American people.
    The sad part is more and more people do not trust the government.,
    may be it is'nt so sad if you stop and think beyond the politics.

    do you agree ?upvote.

    November 6, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  4. Al

    And to think that this failure of a law is what the Democrats were refusing to allow to be delayed by one year. Perhaps in that year the lie could have been sugar coated so that it would not look or sound as bad as what it really is. But it goes to show yet another failure from this administration and the Democrats.

    November 6, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  5. Titanic liar

    Obama is worthless – this simply proves it......

    November 6, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  6. watash60

    he got the takers and liberals votes thats all he cared about. Also all obamacare stuff was scheduled to be implemented after the election. He is not as dumb as us others think he is....

    November 6, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  7. mike

    And this, boys and girls, is what you get when the government steps in to help. A Cluster of EPIC proportions.

    November 6, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  8. Kurt Zimmerman

    What puzzles me is this... What are the chances that the insurance industry is going to take advantage of ObamaCare and devise polices with such outrageous premiums and deductibles to benefit themselves? Are there any guidelines, checks & balances in monitoring what the insurance industry is putting out to the general public? I see it as an opportunity for the insurance industry to gouge the general public. .... I hear another train a-coming...

    November 6, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  9. Dina S

    I am shocked lol ..... Notttt What did people really think was going to happen ? magically insurance for everyone ?? Its the lack of commom sense why this was never going to work, and you sure cant force anyone to sign up regardless of this "law" SORRY but its not a law for me and most Americans who had a wake up call. If not you will soon enough, everything has a price nothing is free !!!

    November 6, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  10. perry

    I'm not one to bash Obama all the time, but this healthcare plan is pathetic. Nice website! How can you spend $349 million (and counting) on a website that doesn't work well? Nice job government (all parties included). We need less government involvement in our daily lives. This really hurts the young that need to subsidize the older people.

    November 6, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  11. gstlab3

    trust, hard working politicians and good jobs and education for the people.,
    all lost during my short time here on planet Earth.

    November 6, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  12. bones

    My insurance went from $2500 to $5600. Do the Math!!!

    November 6, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  13. DS

    I do not know why those who just hate ObamaCare want to see and read everything negative, may be because it gives them some hope that they may be right. If anything, I see this article showing that there is a huge interest in enrollment and this 'pathetic' web site is not able to fulfil that goal. So, thumb down to website but two thumbs up to ACA (aka Obamacare).

    November 6, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  14. Jim

    This is what happens when a political hack awards contracts to his business buddies rather than to the most qualified candidates. Can see this line through his whole administration. A focus on job creation would go a lot further towards reducing the number of uninsured than this ill-conceived ACA has.

    November 6, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  15. Zenstox

    I hear that Vladimir Putin is offering Edward Snowden's services to help repair this debacle.

    November 6, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  16. Meki60

    President Garbage fails again

    November 6, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  17. Fish

    It has become abundantly clear that we have a one-hit wonder for a President stubbornly clinging too his One hit which isn't hitting. We need a change before we beat this website till the bones are showing.

    November 6, 2013 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  18. USER-301

    Let me tell you whats good about the Obamacare launch – It didn't kill anyone and will only get better as the days go by. Unlike the big launch of G. Bush, it killed hundreds in the first day and never got better.

    November 6, 2013 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  19. Larry

    And the only person fired was a call center woman who answered a call from Shaun Hannity.

    November 6, 2013 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  20. sammy zoso

    Pathetic story. Who gives a S about a month ago. How is the website today? It actually works quite well. Too bad, eh CNN? l

    November 6, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  21. Meki60

    so Pelosi had to approve the bill to find out what was in it, after approval, she does not want to know.

    November 6, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  22. Regur44

    I've seen reports that the majority of those who have signed are older folks and many of whom are less than healthy specimens. And, as expected by many' the young and healthy members of our society are generally showing little interest in securing health coverage. That, to me, comes as absolutely no surprise. ObamaCare needs young subscribers to pay premiums and not present claims to make the plan work. The really interesting question is how the plan will treat the non-subscribers; will they be fined or be given more time to enroll? All the nuances of this 2000 page law have yet to be realized but I speculate time will not improve the overall acceptance of this legislation. Obama, of course, wants this beast to be a totally government controlled program.

    November 6, 2013 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  23. Faux Scandals

    It's still ten times beter than the GOP plan, which is no healthcare for the poor and people with pre exsisting conditions.

    November 6, 2013 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  24. Nodack

    So they have had problems with the opening and seem to be fixing them. I went thought the process without any problems for some reason. They gave me the choice of over 100 different policies. All this whining and complaining from people that already have insurance and had no plans to get a Obamacare.

    Everybody is playing games, Democrats, Republicans, insurance companies, businesses all spitting out their own propaganda. We could have all got together and figured this out , but no. We could still get together and tweak things to make it better, but no, we would rather beat the _ell out of each other and demonize each other in a partisan fight that never ends while the rest of the world laughs at us destroying ourselves.

    So ashamed of our entire country. We look like complete idjuts and I mean everybody.

    November 6, 2013 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  25. Sunbird

    The President is a complete joke!!! I feel as though we are in a cartoon! Why does he feel as though we need this so called, idiotic, "Obamacare". So now, he wants to make the Great USA a socialist country. I just love how he lies and then lies again to try and cover the first lie. He blames the republicans for the shutdown. Well, we all know he loves the blame game and furthermore, he is what we call a LEADER! He should have sat down instead of acting like a spoiiled child to talk. I should not have the government controlling my healthcare!

    November 6, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16