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. steve

    Leave it to Obama to promise a Cadillac and deliver a Yugo.

    November 6, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  2. cog in the wheel

    I hope the site is fixed soon. The fact that the website wasn't designed and/or constructed properly doesn't negate the many positive changes the ACA brings to American citizens. US presidents have talked about changing the healthcare system for 40 years or more...let's give this new approach a few months and see how it works.

    I'm all for making improvements as problems are identified. Scrapping the whole thing is NOT an improvement.

    November 6, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  3. Steve R

    Seems CNN can't seem to find anything god to say about the Affordable Health Care System but they say nothing about other web sites like the Florida UN-Employment web site or many other sites that started out having problems. From what I can see this site is a major undertaking and if anyone believes they could do better then why aren't they being hired as contractors? Even CNN has to admit all sites have problems (but they won't) and the Affordable Health Care Web Site is no different. I am glad to see it being updated and fixed and getting more use as time goes along. What is the Republican Paln you ask? Don't get sick and if you do die quickly!

    November 6, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  4. Moderngirl

    So there are teething problems. I want to see a year from now how things are. I'm sure everything will work out. It's about time this country had affordable care for everyone. A civilized country at last!

    November 6, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  5. Fred Flintstone

    Wilma says not to get involved in Obamacare. She read an article in the Cave Times that it's sole intent is to bankrupt us even further and that's why it's a flawed program. Betty and Barney ignored it as well. Mr. Slate says I can keep our insurance plan but because of Obama care, my policy has no choice but to increase.

    November 6, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  6. Sunbird

    I feel the ones who voted for Obama should be covered under his idiotic plan and the ones who did not vote for him, use our personal plan. 🙂

    November 6, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  7. Gurgyl

    It is all Derrell Issa drama. Nothing wrong with ACA law. Google will fix it. Yesterday's result is a wake up call says nothing wrong with it. They ran against Obamacare campaign–see VA, what a humiliation. Do not talk of Obamacare any more. What a humiliation, VA I am proud of you all, god bless.

    November 6, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  8. cumulus

    Bring out your dead!

    November 6, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  9. JJ

    Obamacare is a disaster. Obama and the Democrat Party have destroyed the US healthcare system, the greatest in the world. Tens of millions of people are losing their current policies, seeing huge insurance premium increases and losing their doctors. This is a travesty. Obamacare was originated, written and passed only by the Democrat Party and they should be held accountable. Obama should be IMPEACHED for lying to the American people (and Fast & Furious, Benghazi, IRS & NSA), every Democrat should be voted out of office in 2014 and 2016 for creating this catastrophe of a law and all should feel the wrath of the American people.

    November 6, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  10. Anonymous

    Whoever posted this headline on CNN is dead meat. And I ollk for it to vanish almost immediately. That's how things work with our main stream media/// and the Obama regime.

    November 6, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  11. copperhead

    Sunbird, by your logic, only those that voted for Bush would have gone to fight his war.

    November 6, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  12. Diplomad

    It was not worse than thought. Anybody who tried to get on the website knew it was a disaster. It was Obama and "his" team that kept lying about it and the press, including the now suddenly aware CNN, gave them a pass. It wasn't really until the late-night comics began ridiculing the thing that CNN and others decided to take another look.

    November 6, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  13. are122

    Nearly worthless website is costing more than it's worth. Shut it down. Put it out of it's misery.

    November 6, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  14. David L.

    i support Obama 100% but there is absolutely no excuse for the problems with The Affordable Care Act website. No excuse. They had plenty of time to design and test this system. Did the person in charge of this project even have IT experience? These things require extensive should have been designed to handle a huge demand of it's resources. People should be fired, heads should roll. This website should have been working seamlessly from the start..maybe a few very minor glitiches, but that is all. It is mindboggling that this happened.

    November 6, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  15. TSB8C

    Obama promised, 'If I like your insurance, you can keep it.' You may like your insurance, but that is not quite good enough for the Obama administration. Contrary to the endlessly repeated promise of the president and his political allies, millions and millions of Americans who do in fact like their current insurance policies are receiving notices that they will not be allowed to keep them. The White House and its media allies are working furiously to explain away this fact, but there is no explaining it away: The president lied about this. ... Nor can the Democrats say that they did not see this coming. After the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Senator Mike Enzi (R., Wyo.) introduced a bill specifically intended to alleviate this problem and ensure that small businesses would have their health-insurance plans grandfathered in. Democrats voted unanimously against it. There is no amount of clever spin or media denial that can make the president's promises accord with the reality of what his administration is doing - or with the fact that he knew his claims were untrue at the time he was making them.

    November 6, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  16. Ann

    I wish more people could differentiate between the website and the actual policy. Obamacare itself is not the problem... the website is.

    November 6, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  17. Roger

    Wow – CNN reporting on the truth about the administration! I can't believe my eyes! Is it because their market share has consistently dropped over the years while they protect the admin over the people??? Or is it intentional to keep the scandal cloud waters merky and distracting from more imment dangers to our liberty?

    November 6, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  18. Faux Scandals

    Tens of millionsof people had junk policies or scam policies that wouldn't have covered them in the first place.

    November 6, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  19. Name Maximus

    Steve is about time the liberal news did their jobs. After carrying and covering up for Obummer for the last 5 years, it is refreshing that some in the media have learned that their job is to report news and not to slant it.

    November 6, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  20. Andrew

    Well for the website, I strongly believe you people in the US should sue the companies involved in the development of the site and not pay a single penny for the fixes being done. I would also sue them for the inflated cost of the project. As a web developer myself, if I ever created a website and it didn't work or perform, I'm the one who has to fix it and without additional cost to the client. That is how it should be.

    November 6, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  21. PaulCat

    ......and can you start working on a bill for jobs?

    We all know how fast you can get things started.

    Maybe before your next long paid vacation.

    November 6, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  22. Educated Voter

    What failure? A website glitch? You guys make it sound like a bad month of website problems= utter failure for the Affordable Health Care Act. You do realize the plans don't even go into effect for another 2 months. You also realize the website is not the only place people can sign up right? You also realize the despite the gliches, peoplse are still signing up right?

    My good friend currently pays over $500 a month on insurance though Kaiser, and it only covers himself. Through the AHCA, he will be able to get himself, wife, and kid coverage for $150/month. Tell me that isn't a success.

    November 6, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  23. David L.

    JJ: Are you crazy? The Dems are the only sane people in Washington. You not going to tell me that the GOP are not all ignorant, insane, nutjobs. The GOP are out of their least the DEMS are sane, and always try to do the right thing. We have to make sure that for generations to come, people do not vote for the GOP. The future of our country and our children's future depend on this.

    November 6, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  24. jamie

    Billions of tax dollars are taken out of our hard earned monthly wages to go to other countries in suitcases and backpacks and what do we get in return???? OBAMACARE

    November 6, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  25. Chris

    What a disaster, this entire thing should be scrapped. It's a tax so just treat it like a tax and take it out of our usual income tax.

    November 6, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
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