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U.S. | Health, Housing, and Public Services

Healthcare.Gov Still Troubled
by Stephen Lendman
Monday Dec 2nd, 2013 11:55 PM
Obamacare
Healthcare.Gov Still Troubled

by Stephen Lendman

Obama promised web site problems fixed by November 30. Another promise made. Another broken. Another lie followed.

Obama advisor Jeffrey Zients heads web site repair efforts. Load times are faster, he said. "The site is now stable and operating at its intended capacity, with greatly improved performance."

Health and Human Services (HHS) claims 50,000 people can access the site simultaneously. "(M)ore that 800,000 consumer(s)" can do so daily, it added.

Zients and HHS stopped short of indicating how many people successfully enrolled since November 30.

Doing so involves completing all required steps necessary. It includes successfully transmitting accurate information to insurers.

If impressive numbers did so, administration officials would highlight them. Failure to do so suggests things aren't going as smoothly as touted.

On November 30, The New York Times headlined "Inside the Race to Rescue a Health Care Site, and Obama," saying:

"The website, which the administration promised would 'function smoothly' for most people by Nov. 30, remains a work in progress."

"It is more stable, with many more people able to use it simultaneously than just two weeks ago."

"But it still suffers sporadic crashes, and large parts of the vital 'back end' that processes enrollment data and transactions with insurers remain unbuilt."

More hardware upgrades and software fixes are needed. Administration declared success falls way short of reality.

Last week, Obama attended one of many closed-door fund-raisers. He touted Obamacare. He promised he'll "fight for another three years" to make it a reality.

The Times said he didn't mention Healthcare.gov. He's embarrassed to do so. Consumers trying to access it since November 30 report mixed results.

Things work better than before. They remain far short of what's needed. They're inconsistent. Insurers call it maddening. They're getting duplicate files or none at all.

America's Health Insurance Plans spokesman Robert Zirkelbach said "(h)ealth plans can't process enrollments they don't receive."

Henry Chao is Healthcare.gov's chief digital architect. On November 19, he said fixing it remains a work in progress. Up to 40% of it remains flawed.

Much work remains to be done on "back office systems, accounting systems, and payment systems," he explained. Things are a good ways from being resolved.

An anonymous insurance executive said:

"Somehow people are getting lost in the process. If they go to a doctor or a hospital and we have no record of them, that will be very upsetting to consumers."

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey spokesman Thomas Rubino complained about receiving "some but not a lot" of Healthcare.gov enrollments.

Numerous problems remain unresolved. Some consumers are erroneously called ineligible for subsidies. Insurers aren't sure what premium amounts to charge.

Government computers blocked enrollments of people eligible for subsidies. They failed to retrieve eligibility information.

Normalized functioning wasn't achieved as promised. It's unclear when unresolved problems will be fixed.

On December 1, The Times headlined "Insurers Claim Health Website Is Still Flawed."

So-called back end systems are supposed to provide them with consumer information. Site problems aren't resolved. They're not getting it.

America's Health Insurance Plans president Karen Ignagni said:

"Until the enrollment process is working from end to end, many consumers will not be able to enroll in coverage."

The Times called issues "vexing and complex. Some insurers say they have been deluged with phone calls from people who believe they have signed up for a particular health plan, only to find that the company has no record of the enrollment."

"Others say information they received about new enrollees was inaccurate or incomplete."

Insurers say government subsidy information wasn't provided. It's needed to price coverage accurately.

At best, Healthcare.gov is less disastrous than two months ago. Access for most consumers was virtually impossible then.

The Commonwealth Fund (CF) calls itself "a private foundation working toward a high performance health system."

Obama officials hope for seven million or more enrollees through Healthcare.gov and state marketplaces by March 31.

In late November, CF said only 3% of targeted numbers was achieved. Things remain slow-going.

Kaiser Family Foundation survey information showed 38% of uninsured consumers knew "nothing at all about health insurance marketplaces."

On December 1, the Wall Street Journal headlined "Insurers Seek to Bypass Health Site," saying:

They're trying to avoid "balky technology despite the Obama administration's claim Sunday that it had made 'dramatic progress' in fixing" troublesome problems.

They admitted a major obstacle remains unresolved. The system can't "verify users' identities and accurately transmit enrollment data to insurers."

What good is enrolling without follow-through. It's a long way from being achieved.

Connecticut chief information officer James Wadleigh said he may decouple from federal infrastructure. He wants Connecticut to be self-reliant. His counterparts in other states are monitoring his efforts.

To assure January 1 coverage, millions of uninsured consumers as well as others losing coverage at yearend must enroll by December 23.

Thirty-six states rely exclusively on Healthcare.gov to do so. "(F)ixes aimed at making (it) look and work better don't address and may exacerbate problems deeper in the system," said the Journal.

"Officials signaled Sunday that work was only just starting to address some of the identity-verification issues as well as enrollment data."

Separately, Journal editors headlined "ObamaCare Mission Accomplished," saying:

Sunday administration comments were "short on basic information." Eight pages of charts and unverifiable claims substituted.

Information provided runs counter to what's explained above. Major problems remain unresolved. "HHS gave up on the federal exchanges for small business(es)." They delayed them for a year.

White House declared success is more political than real. It claims Healthcare.gov works right for consumers more than 90% of the time. Excluded are maintenance shut down periods.

"HHS won't say how often that is or for how long," said Journal editors. In other words, Healthcare.gov works most often except when it doesn't.

On a Sunday conference call, HHS wouldn't say how much progress was achieved on unresolved technical problems. Much relates to transmitting correct information to insurers.

Mission accomplished is another unfulfilled Obama pledge. It remains to be seen how long vexing unresolved problems remain.

Most troublesome is Obamacare sticker shock. So-called affordable care provides unaffordable coverage. A previous article discussed it.

Millions of households have to pay 40% or more out-of-pocket. It's for co-pays and deductibles. It's on top of costly premiums.

Coverage for 50-year-olds making $46,100 is $10,585. Co-pays and deductibles add up to another $6,250.

Healthcare in America is double its cost in other developed countries. It's increasingly less affordable. Little is done to constrain annual price hikes.

Obamacare isn't universal. Millions will remain uninsured. Millions more will be underinsured. They're one major illness away from personal bankruptcy. It's by far the major cause.

Obamacare scams more than protects. It leaves America's most disadvantaged in no-man's land. Web site fixes ignore what's most troublesome.

Healthcare is a human right. Coverage should be universal. It should continue from birth to death. Everyone in, no one left out should be official policy.

America is the only developed country without some kind of universal coverage. It's double the cost in other industrialized countries. It's increasingly unaffordable.

It delivers less bang for the buck than abroad. It's a scam. Web site problems mask what's really troublesome.

Enrollees will eventually discover they've been had. Most are one expensive illness away from trouble.

Lack of proper coverage when most needed exposes a failed system. Unaffordable coverage reveals one of the all-time greatest scams.

Commodifying a human right created this mess. Corporate healthcare providers won't resolve it.

Physicians for a National Health Program president Dr. Andrew Coates asked: "Can we call (America) a modern democracy if it fails to meet the health needs of its population?"

The only solution is reversing longstanding policy. Doing so requires overwhelming consumer pressure. At issue is sustained commitment for nothing less.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen [at] sbcglobal.net.

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

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