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. columbus

    " It burst into flames! Get this, Charlie! Get this, Charlie! It's fire—and it's crashing! It's crashing terrible! Oh, my, get out of the way, please! It's burning and bursting into flames, and the—and it's falling on the mooring-mast and all the folks agree that this is terrible, this is one of the worst catastrophes in the world." – Herbert Morrison, reporting Hindenburg crash

    Seems appropriate, from another catastrophic failure.

    November 6, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  2. Jeff

    I can just see this 2 years from now. Man gets hangnail and waits 30 minutes for treatment. Republicans want answers.

    November 6, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  3. troy

    why are people signing up... everyone should back away from this forced CommunistCare Odumbo insurance ... The only name he is making for himself is as the worst wannabe dictator ..

    November 6, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  4. laodegan

    Oh, I get it. The Democrats are actually surprised at how bad it is. Incredible.

    November 6, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  5. malibu123

    Thanks Barry, just thanks for being you.

    A Loving Liberal

    November 6, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  6. suspicious

    Strikes me as odd.....We can put a man in space, spy on foreign governments, spy on citizens, "defend the nation from hackers"....but when it comes time to "provide a service" like a simple website......speaks volumes. No wonder we outsource......

    November 6, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  7. Erocks

    I think saying I told you so is an understatement. Your government at work. How will the IRS handle fining people. Can't wait for that debacle

    November 6, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  8. Name Maximus

    Government at its finest. No surprise here!

    November 6, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  9. AJ

    It is quiet annoying. Not the Obamacare website, but how people react to it. When someone falls in front of you, do you stand there and laugh at that person? Don't we immediately join hands to defend ourselves when attacked from outside? Has not everyone in their life (public or personal) seen failures? Ok, the website did not work? It is not going to be like this forever. Those who blame, need not come forward to help. Atleast, try not to send wrong messages to your fellow citizens who are willing to help. Mr. President, you won't diminish by the passing clouds. What you have done is great and good things are not always appreciated by everyone. It's not because they do not like it, it is simply because that is how they are. Keep moving forward, and don't delay reaching your goal by stopping to talk with them. It is of no use. Yes, we can and we will. AJ.

    November 6, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  10. @JJ

    Dude - what are you talking about? Please name cite theses "10s of millions" of people losing their healthcare... entirely false claim.

    November 6, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  11. Rose

    I did not have any problems with the web site or even chatting with someone on line from the ACA. A month ago I did but just tow days ago, no problem. I think someone or someone's are making a bigger issue then it actually is. That's my opinion

    November 6, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  12. quieteye

    Most comments here seem fixated on Obama and lies and failings.

    Meantime, efforts are made to improve and progress an an attempt to leave an era of...
    – Spiraling healthcare costs
    – Increases, sometimes high, of premiums – co-pays – deductibles
    – Increases of under or uninsured
    – Decrease or declines of coverage
    – Increases of record industry profits – CEO bonuses – investor returns.

    Should not the above unsustainable equation be the focus and hope the site fix occurs to address it?
    Or would many here prefer repeal and return to above status-quo?

    ACA is a republican / heritage foundation model after all.
    Not the single-payer or public-option many thought simpler and better republicans were against.

    November 6, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  13. Rose

    Sorry two days ago, not tow...DUH me

    November 6, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  14. Circus Circus

    What a joke Obama has turned out to be (and not just about Obamacare).

    November 6, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  15. Tony

    Prediction: 1 year, 80+% approval for ACA. I wish there was a way I could put some money on it. By then, people will no longer care about the website launch problems. Larger and more important issues have slipped out of the publics interest in less time than that.

    November 6, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  16. u laby

    1/2 a bil for a website. You're kidding me.

    November 6, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  17. Reality Speaks

    This is a disaster and for those screaming how wonderful this will be haven't done their research and looked into how much this is really going to cost them. What the ACA requires seniors and men to have maternity and birth control coverage on their plans they are a failure. The costs to the american people will be astronomical.

    November 6, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  18. Gary

    After spending how many hundreds of millions of dollars for a "fully-functioning" website, and having not received said website, why are we throwing many more millions of dollars at something that has already been paid for?

    November 6, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  19. scott

    People need to realize that in the last 40 years or so the U.S. has went down hill and its by design.

    November 6, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  20. Tyrone Shoes

    Early reports are that not only is the website a debacle, but there are no savings to be had. Average premiums are up 50%-68% and that's to say nothing about significantly increased deductibles. This is what happens when the government interferes where it doesn't belong folks. The government never has and never will do anything efficiently or cost effectively. When are we going learn?

    November 6, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  21. Freedom Fighter

    The entire tea-banger movement is a Koch brothers direct copy of Joseph Goebbels propaganda machine in WWII Germany. Propped up though Koch billions corporate finance. Propagandist lies using minority bashing to forward GOP corporate government agendas. Blame it on Obama’s birth certificate, blame it on illegal immigrants, blame it on anyone but Walmart, and the other big corps that DELIBERATELY EXPORTED OUR AMERICAN JOBS to China, India, Pakistan, Mexico....slave labor markets. Now as normal Americans we know what it was like for honorable folk in WWII Germany who had to suffer the Nazis. The difference is this time the Nazis are losing and see how they behave. Like little children throwing temper tantrums.

    November 6, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  22. Sharon Spangler

    I feel health care for everyone for free just like Canada, why is the USA spending outside our country we need money here. I feel it's too late to fix any of the problems, things are getting worse just read papers from all over the world. Just a thought !!

    November 6, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  23. Sanity

    The problem with Americans is that when it comes to politics they believe that truth is a matter of public opinion. If enough people agree with something then it must be true. And if someone in your party came up with something, then it must be workable. It is like when Ronald Reagan was proposing the Star Wars missile defense system. Democrats said that it was scientifically impossible and Republicans said it could be done. Whether it was scientifically possible was a fact and not something that the majority could either vote to be true or not.

    No matter how much you love President Obama, is it not possible that Obamacare is factually not capable of achieving its goals and instead likely to make things much worse? No matter how many people voted for President Obama or believe that Obamacare is just great, if the actual facts prove otherwise, it won't matter.

    November 6, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  24. u laby

    The POTUS and all politicians for that matter should be held to the same standard that used car salesmen are. If you lie to sell a product, or law, go directly to jail. Do not pass go.

    November 6, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  25. Fed Up

    The site is the least of our problems. The ACA will be a significant drag on our economy and on family budgets for years to come. Healthcare costs will skyrocket, insurance costs will rise and American families will feel the pain. The economics of the plan simply don't work, it was built on faulty assumptions, half-truths and outright lies. This may be one of the most fundamental changes of our lifetime as it will permeate every facet of our lives. Get used to this, as it's only going to get worse.

    November 6, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
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