Healthcare.gov is fixed, or is it?

From 27,000 enrollments in October to a reported 100,000 enrollments in November, the Affordable Care Act’s website is apparently working better and getting more people signed up.

But is it fixed well enough to handle the expected wave of at least many hundreds of thousands of people eager to get guarantee issue health insurance for the first time or replace a canceled policy by January 1?

Here are some of the press reports covering the December 1 Healthcare.gov relaunch.

Reuters: “A surge of visitors clogged the U.S. government’s revamped health care insurance shopping website on Monday, signaling that President Barack Obama’s administration has a way to go in fixing the portal that showcases his signature domestic policy.”

Bloomberg, reporting on a navigator’s experience: “It’s still kind of glitchy. Now it just kicked me out. It went back to the front page. I’ve been here all afternoon and it’s been like that.”

Miami Herald: “Long waits, error messages, unresponsiveness. Hallmarks of the troubled launch of the Health Insurance Marketplace at Healthcare.gov continued to stymie South Florida residents and counselors trying to access the website on Monday — more than two months after the October 1 launch, and despite the government’s self-imposed deadline of Nov. 30 for the system to function smoothly for the ‘vast majority of Americans.

Los Angeles Times: “The Obama administration’s overhauled health care website got off to a bumpy relaunch Monday as a rush of consumers caused an uptick in errors and forced the administration to put thousands of shoppers on the healthcare.gov site on hold.

Ezra Klein, Washington Post: “Of course, that means the site still suffers a disastrous outage rate.” And, “We have no idea whether the 200 fixes left on the list are really important ones, or really difficult ones. The repair job is likely proceeding quickly enough to protect Obamacare from the most severe threat to its launch: Democrat-backed legislation unwinding the individual mandate or other crucial portions of the law.”

And then there is the backroom. The administration apparently decided that it was more important to fix the front-end of the system before the back-end was fixed. Do they think that big customer service issues come January, if the “834″ back-end enrollment problems are not fixed by then, will be blamed on the insurance industry and not the administration?

Associated Press: “Private insurers complain that much of the enrollment information they’ve gotten on individual consumers is practically useless. It is corrupted by errors, duplication or garbles. Efforts to fix the underlying problems are underway, but the industry isn’t happy with the progress and is growing increasingly concerned.”

As I have said before, the Obama administration is likely in the midst of a four month project to properly fix and test this system. It will likely be at least late January or early February before not just Healthcare.gov but the other key information systems supporting the new law are built and repaired to just minimal standards.

Maybe the best news for Healthcare.gov is that you can finally look at actual plans and prices for your age and family in your community without having to open an account and sign-in. Finally, people can easily see for themselves just what kind of plan is available for them and at what pre-subsidy cost. They can also access a chart telling them if they are eligible for a subsidy or reduced cost sharing but not calculate it for themselves.

My definition of a fixed Healthcare.gov is a site that encourages enrollment rather than discourages it. Time will tell — but only about three weeks time before the December 23 enrollment deadline for having coverage on January 1.

Maybe, however haltingly, we are finally getting to the main event. The day when people can get a good idea for themselves just what value Obamacare presents for them. The premiums, the deductibles and co-pays, as well as the provider networks. Not just the people who are now uninsured or have had their policy canceled, but also those who don’t need Obamacare today but think they might someday. All of them voters focused on finding out for themselves what this Obamacare thing really is.

Nobody can spin the main event.

Robert Laszewski is president, Health Policy and Strategy Associates and blogs at Health Care Policy and Marketplace Review.

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  • Dr. Drake Ramoray

    Not sure about the website but its not looking good in California even when the exchsnges do work.

    http://washingtonexaminer.com/doctors-boycotting-californias-obamacare-exchange/article/2540272

  • Dr. Drake Ramoray
  • May Wright

    A goodly number of the five million or so previously-insured Americans who have received cancellation notices from their insurance companies are going to be left in the lurch if they cannot access healthcare-dot-gov, sign up for, and *pay for* a new policy by December 15 (just 9 days from now) so that they will still be insured as at January 1.

    I’m wondering whether as of January 1st 2014, the number of previously-uninsured Americans who now have private health insurance through the ACA will be greater than or less than the number of previously-insured Americans who now have no health insurance thanks to the ACA.

    I don’t suppose anyone will tell us, though.

  • http://frugalnurse.com/ Frugal Nurse

    It’s not just Healthcare.gov. Washington state’s exchange has been down since last Tuesday. The official statement is that they “hope” to have to up by Monday and they “apologize for the inconvenience.” We will be so much more than inconvenienced if we can’t get insurance coverage by Jan 1.

  • johnfembup

    And none of this yet touches the issue of enrollee data security. Looking beyond today’s operational problems in the website I think data security is likely to emerge as the single biggest problem of all.

    In fact, I think one of the main reasons Obama himself has not enrolled in Obamacare (despite his promise of a couple years ago to enroll his own family) is that he fears his own personal data would not be secure. With good reason.

    I’m in Medicare Advantage so Obamacare affects me in a different way. Still, I was curious to see what is on my state’s exchange. When I found I could not browse around without first entering my personal data, I closed out of the site pronto.

    But what can others do, who need Obamacare? They are getting slammed with cancellation of private policies even if they might prefer to keep them. They are facing higher Obamacare premiums and higher Obamacare deductibles at the same time. They have no assurance they can keep their doctor. Plus their data is easy pickings for hackers, fraudsters, and thieves. Taxpayers must pay a trillion dollars for this?