Consumers Know It's Not Just Volume

The New York Times reports today on the administration’s spin about the rollout disaster of Obamacare, attributing the website crashes to much-higher-than-anticipated volume.

But reading the comments at the end of the article gives a clearer picture of what’s actually happening: “‘At lower volumes, it would work fine’ already has become a classic in the tech world,” writes BeefeaterBoston. In other words, the tech world is not buying it that the system was overwhelmed by the number of potential applicants. It should have been designed for this.

Many readers have reported on their direct experience of trying to enroll.  Teresa Monroe of New York comments on her experience with her state’s exchange:

New York’s healthcare exchange is a combination of the NSA surveillance program and the dumbest web design ever. You cannot go on there to just shop between plans and then decide which to buy. No, if you’re an individual you must put in all kinds of personally identifiable information (Social Security No., address, birth date, income, tax filing status) and health information (pregnancy status, preexisting conditions) before you can even SEE a plan. Not that anyone can get that far. The site actually goes to a state database and “confirms” your information is “correct”, and if it doesn’t think, for instance, that your Social Security number matches your name and birthdate, you can’t move to the next step.

What genius ever thought this was a good way to make a healthcare exchange? People should be able to shop plans (as they can on the federal site) without having to give volumes of personal info and being “verified” first. No wonder the NY site crashes every 2 seconds. When I called the hotline, they said another section of the site shows the cost of a plan, but it also requires income, etc. and then just spits out a number, the amount you’ll pay, without any information about the actual plan. It’s as useful as being told a car costs $5000 without any information about make, model, year, or condition. This website is what we get for $370 million? And I’m a SUPPORTER of health exchanges. New York’s implementation is embarrassing.

And TriniNJ offers evidence that the problems did not begin on the October 1 launch date of the exchanges:

This problem has persisted since before October 1st. On August 6th I received an e-mail from the Health Insurance Marketplace saying it was now possible to create an account and then wait for Oct 1 to enroll in a plan. I tried to create an account on August 6th, and it did not work much like was reported on October 1st. I called the 800 number on the web site given to resolve creating account problems in August and worked with a helper for about 3 weeks to no avail. Then I contacted the center (CMS) directly in early September and got a call from their Office of Communication on 9/5 and was first told the problem was fixed and the site was now available to create an account and then was told to wait since they were still testing it.

Then I received an E-mail stating that the site would not be available to create an account till October 1st. And looks like this is still not possible. I have not tried because I have read of all the problems in creating accounts and do not want to go through the process again until all is properly tested and working. I realize that in any new system there will be snags, but it is not correct to state that this is a problem that arose for the first time on October 1st. It well may be that the large numbers trying to create accounts could have caused a crash, but it is also true that it was not possible to create an account before October 1st at a point when I do not believe there were large numbers trying to create accounts.

Posted on National Review Online October 8, 2013

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