HHS touts Obamacare's federal data hub just before it goes dark
This is ironically too delicious to pass up. HHS made a big deal on Saturday of how proud they were that the data hub that connects all federal agencies involved in getting a consumer insurance was working so well:
To give Americans a better way to shop for health coverage, the federal government and states recently launched Health Insurance Marketplaces. Yesterday, we announced a clear path forward so that by the end of November, HealthCare.gov will work smoothly for the vast majority of consumers. But you probably haven't heard about the Data Services Hub which serves as a critical resource for the Marketplaces, both state and federal. The Hub is a tool to help you and your family get affordable, quality health care.
What Is the Hub?
The Hub is a routing tool - an information sharing tool. It is an efficient and secure way to rapidly verify the information submitted by consumers seeking a determination of what coverage options and financial assistance are available to them.
You see, one of the great things about the new Marketplaces, which are getting better every day, is that through them, you can apply for health coverage, and check to see if you and your family may qualify for lower premiums, or for Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). But that one-stop shopping is possible only if information can be shared quickly, accurately, and securely.
The Hub provides one connection to the common federal data sources needed to verify consumer application information for income, citizenship, immigration status, access to minimum essential coverage, etc.
What the Hub Is Not
It's important to understand that the Hub is not a database. It doesn't retain or store information. And the Hub queries only those systems necessary to determine your eligibility for what you apply for. It is a model of efficiency and security because it eliminates the need for each Marketplace, state Medicaid agency, and CHIP agency to set up separate data connections to each of the systems that are in place to help you and your family.
How Many People Has It Helped?
As of yesterday, nearly 700,000 Americans had completed an application through the Marketplaces - more than half of them through the federal Marketplace. This does not count applications directly to Medicaid and CHIP agencies that also can use the Hub.
Sounds fantastic. Too bad consumers can't access it.
A data center critical for allowing uninsured Americans to buy health coverage under President Barack Obama's healthcare law went down on Sunday, halting online enrollment for all 50 states in the latest problem to hit the program's troubled rollout.
The data center operated by Verizon's Terremark experienced a connectivity issue that caused it to shut down, affecting the federal government's already problem-plagued online marketplace Healthcare.gov and similar sites operated by 14 states and the District of Columbia, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Obama administration and company officials could not say how long it would take to fix the connectivity problem.
Separate technical problems that have stalled enrollment on Healthcare.gov since its launch on October 1 are at the heart of a new Republican effort to discredit the healthcare law, also known as Obamacare, largely through congressional investigations to determine what went wrong in building the costly and complicated implementation system.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is due to testify later this week before a House of Representatives committee, while government contractors work around the clock to improve the Healthcare.gov website.
The outage that started in the early hours of Sunday caused the data center to lose network connectivity with the federal government's data services hub, an electronic traffic roundabout that links the online health insurance marketplaces with numerous federal agencies and can verify people's identity, citizenship, and other facts.
Without the hub, consumers are unable to apply online for coverage or determine their eligibility for federal subsidies to help pay for insurance premiums. On Saturday, Sebelius praised the hub's ability to perform complex calculations in quick time as an example of a successful segment of the system.
HHS spokeswoman Joanne Peters said Sebelius spoke with Verizon's chief executive officer on Sunday afternoon to discuss the situation: "They committed to fixing the problem as soon as possible."
The outage was affecting enrollment in all 50 states, as well as Terremark customers not connected with the marketplaces, according to the HHS spokeswoman. She said the data center's network connectivity went down during planned maintenance to replace a failed networking component.
A spokesman for Verizon said the problem would be fixed "as soon as possible."
Doin' a helluva job, Kathy. Can't wait to observe your public execution on Wednesday when even members of your own party abandon you.