There’s virtually no debate that the launch of the national Obamacare exchange — the website where you can go buy insurance under the Affordable Care Act — has been a glitch-plagued disaster.
There are stories of legions of people not being able to log on and shop for plans.
Now Robert Pear, Sharon LaFraniere, and Ian Austen at the NYT have published the best account of what went wrong. And the short answer is: basically everything.
“These are not glitches,” said an insurance executive who has participated in many conference calls on the federal exchange. Like many people interviewed for this article, the executive spoke on the condition of anonymity, saying he did not wish to alienate the federal officials with whom he works. “The extent of the problems is pretty enormous. At the end of our calls, people say, ‘It’s awful, just awful.'” Interviews with two dozen contractors, current and former government officials, insurance executives and consumer advocates, as well as an examination of confidential administration documents, point to a series of missteps — financial, technical and managerial — that led to the troubles.
A few damning details from the report include:
- As early as this March, there were fears that the site would be a disaster.
- The administration purposely delayed the announcement of some Obamacare rules until after the November election, so as to avoid giving the GOP political fodder, delaying the whole thing.
- The project was under-funded (even though it cost $US400 million).
- As late as September, changes were still being made to the website.
- The actual code to the site didn’t begin being put into place until this Spring.
- Outside contractors are now already distancing themselves from the project, due to reputational risk.
The whole thing is a must-read, but the key thing to bear in mind is that these technical problems could turn into economic and political ones if not addressed fast.
A key to making the whole Affordable Care Act work is that a lot of people have to sign up, so that the risk pool is diverse and premiums remain affordable. If the glitch goes on too long, and people who were on the fence decide not to bother with it, then only the sick and desperate will sign up, leaving a pool of the most expensive to insure, which will result in skyrocketing premiums next year.
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