Obamacare redux: Exchange opens with few problems

The federal Obamacare website healthcare.gov opened for business on Saturday and things went smoothly for the most part. There were problems reported with people being unable to sign into their accounts, as some consumers were told their passwords were "invalid. There also seemed to be long waits for customer service calls.

All in all, not a catastrophe, but annoying nonetheless.

USA Today:

Healthcare.gov launched amid much anticipation after last year's botched rollout.. Department of Health and Human Services reported more than 23,000 people had submitted applications in the first eight hours.

Just as the federal log in issues appeared resolved Saturday afternoon, issues on state-run sites cropped up.

Across the U.S. state-run exchanges were having mixed success enrolling people. Washington state had to take its exchange offline to resolve a problem in which 2015 tax credit amounts were being incorrectly calculated for customers. In Colorado, plans that include cost-sharing subsidies weren't showing up for broker Louise Norris, who also got frequent error messages as she navigated the site.

At least she was able to enroll customers. Brokers at the Health Insurance Store of Louisiana in Baton Rouge weren't able to do that until early afternoon. Owner Will Chapman says none of the 10 agents or their clients could log into accounts until about 1 p.m. CT Saturday.

"We'd go in with an e-mail account, set up an account, verify it and create a password, but when go back to actually log in with that information, it says your password is invalid," says Chapman.

After a lengthy wait on hold for the call center around midday, Chapman says, they were told the problem was systemwide.

"The vast majority of users are having a smooth experience during the first day of Open Enrollment on HealthCare.gov as they fill out applications, browse and enroll in plans," HHS spokesman Aaron Albright said in an e-mailed statement. "We expect to experience the normal issues that any other complicated technology project does upon launch and have seen a small number so far."

Albright said the department "will continue to work every day to make the consumer experience simpler and easier."

Three USA TODAY staff members created accounts in Virginia on Saturday morning. One of the three was blocked from logging in, just as the agents in Louisiana experienced, After a five-minute wait on hold, a call center employee unlocked the account but warned it couldn't be logged into for another two hours.

After 2½ hours, attempts to log into the account again failed, so the password was reset again — to no avail.

After a USA TODAY reporter's third call to the call center after password changes failed to make log in possible, the woman answering the phone said she needed to send the case to "an advanced resolution specialist" who would call back "within five to seven business days."

If Amazon or Yahoo built a website like this and customers experienced the kinds of problems the Obamacare website has, I doubt whether they'd be in business very long.

It was worse with state exchanges. Washington state exchange had to shut down completely:

Washington's health care exchange shut down after the first few hours of open enrollment Saturday as state officials and software engineers tried to resolve a problem with tax credit calculations.

Officials at the exchange said Washington Healthplanfinder, which opened at 8 a.m., appeared to be working fine at first. When the exchange's quality control system reported the problem, they decided to shut the whole system down at about 10:30 a.m. to fix it.

The tax credits were off by just a few dollars in some cases, exchange CEO Richard Onizuka said. He said the system would remain down until it can give consumers who want to buy health insurance accurate information.

On Saturday afternoon, officials estimated the site wouldn't reopen until Sunday morning, but the actual timing will depend on how soon a software fix can be tested for potential side-effects.

Exchange officials could not say how many people had signed up for insurance before the problem was discovered, but spokesman Michael Marchand said about 2,000 people were using the exchange each hour during the two hours it was open on Saturday morning.

Officials decided to shut down the exchange — which was working well otherwise — instead of fixing the problem later because they learned after the previous open enrollment period that even small issues are difficult to fix after registrations are complete, Marchand said.

"It's really bittersweet," Marchand said. "The site worked so much better than last year."

It was also disappointing because the quality control group did such a good job catching the problem just by looking at numbers on a spreadsheet, he added.

"It's a feat that would make auditors jealous," Marchand said.

At least a half billion dollars was spent on the website so far. The backend that deals with payments to insurance companies is still not complete and there are apparently still issues with logging in. With the Supreme Court ready to rule on whether subsidies obtained from the site are illegal, the future of the website is in serious doubt.

 

The federal Obamacare website healthcare.gov opened for business on Saturday and things went smoothly for the most part. There were problems reported with people being unable to sign into their accounts, as some consumers were told their passwords were "invalid. There also seemed to be long waits for customer service calls.

All in all, not a catastrophe, but annoying nonetheless.

USA Today:

Healthcare.gov launched amid much anticipation after last year's botched rollout.. Department of Health and Human Services reported more than 23,000 people had submitted applications in the first eight hours.

Just as the federal log in issues appeared resolved Saturday afternoon, issues on state-run sites cropped up.

Across the U.S. state-run exchanges were having mixed success enrolling people. Washington state had to take its exchange offline to resolve a problem in which 2015 tax credit amounts were being incorrectly calculated for customers. In Colorado, plans that include cost-sharing subsidies weren't showing up for broker Louise Norris, who also got frequent error messages as she navigated the site.

At least she was able to enroll customers. Brokers at the Health Insurance Store of Louisiana in Baton Rouge weren't able to do that until early afternoon. Owner Will Chapman says none of the 10 agents or their clients could log into accounts until about 1 p.m. CT Saturday.

"We'd go in with an e-mail account, set up an account, verify it and create a password, but when go back to actually log in with that information, it says your password is invalid," says Chapman.

After a lengthy wait on hold for the call center around midday, Chapman says, they were told the problem was systemwide.

"The vast majority of users are having a smooth experience during the first day of Open Enrollment on HealthCare.gov as they fill out applications, browse and enroll in plans," HHS spokesman Aaron Albright said in an e-mailed statement. "We expect to experience the normal issues that any other complicated technology project does upon launch and have seen a small number so far."

Albright said the department "will continue to work every day to make the consumer experience simpler and easier."

Three USA TODAY staff members created accounts in Virginia on Saturday morning. One of the three was blocked from logging in, just as the agents in Louisiana experienced, After a five-minute wait on hold, a call center employee unlocked the account but warned it couldn't be logged into for another two hours.

After 2½ hours, attempts to log into the account again failed, so the password was reset again — to no avail.

After a USA TODAY reporter's third call to the call center after password changes failed to make log in possible, the woman answering the phone said she needed to send the case to "an advanced resolution specialist" who would call back "within five to seven business days."

If Amazon or Yahoo built a website like this and customers experienced the kinds of problems the Obamacare website has, I doubt whether they'd be in business very long.

It was worse with state exchanges. Washington state exchange had to shut down completely:

Washington's health care exchange shut down after the first few hours of open enrollment Saturday as state officials and software engineers tried to resolve a problem with tax credit calculations.

Officials at the exchange said Washington Healthplanfinder, which opened at 8 a.m., appeared to be working fine at first. When the exchange's quality control system reported the problem, they decided to shut the whole system down at about 10:30 a.m. to fix it.

The tax credits were off by just a few dollars in some cases, exchange CEO Richard Onizuka said. He said the system would remain down until it can give consumers who want to buy health insurance accurate information.

On Saturday afternoon, officials estimated the site wouldn't reopen until Sunday morning, but the actual timing will depend on how soon a software fix can be tested for potential side-effects.

Exchange officials could not say how many people had signed up for insurance before the problem was discovered, but spokesman Michael Marchand said about 2,000 people were using the exchange each hour during the two hours it was open on Saturday morning.

Officials decided to shut down the exchange — which was working well otherwise — instead of fixing the problem later because they learned after the previous open enrollment period that even small issues are difficult to fix after registrations are complete, Marchand said.

"It's really bittersweet," Marchand said. "The site worked so much better than last year."

It was also disappointing because the quality control group did such a good job catching the problem just by looking at numbers on a spreadsheet, he added.

"It's a feat that would make auditors jealous," Marchand said.

At least a half billion dollars was spent on the website so far. The backend that deals with payments to insurance companies is still not complete and there are apparently still issues with logging in. With the Supreme Court ready to rule on whether subsidies obtained from the site are illegal, the future of the website is in serious doubt.