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Obamacare Website Failure - Healthcare Exchange Problems

Obamacare Website Failure – Healthcare Exchange Problems

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According to official statistics, 19 million unique visitors have gone to HealthCare.gov since the site debuted on Oct. 1 but only a handful have signed up, the Health and Human Services Department, which is the agency tasked with the project refuses to disclose actual numbers . It’s a BIG failure for the launch of the Obamacare website also known as the affordable healthcare act since the goal is to get 7 million uninsured people to sign up by next spring and so far things are not looking good.

The online sign-up process began October 1 and immediately ran into technical problems. Users often were unable to create required logins and passwords and ran into error messages even after that stage. Insurers also have complained of problems. Congressional hearings on the glitches are planned for next week. The open enrollment period continues through March 31.

Initial difficulties have started to ease for logging on to the website for the new exchanges, some of which are run by states and others by the federal government. Now, problems are occurring further along the process, with insurance industry sources having said they are getting some applications with missing information.

The application process was not supposed to work this way.  The administration has had three and a half years to build the “data hub” that was supposed to be the repository of real-time income information that the state exchanges would tap to administer benefits.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll released Monday showed that 56% of respondents consider the website difficulties a harbinger of broader problems with the Affordable Care Act, a constant target of conservative critics who consider it the epitome of big government overreach.

Citing the government shutdown, the US government agency, Health and Human Services Department will not release a list of the estimated dozen or more companies tasked with building the site. But Sunlight Foundation reviewed contract award information from USASpending.gov and FedBizOpps.gov, and found 47 organizations that won contracts from Health and Human Services or the Treasury Department to manage, support or service the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Among them were top contractors like Northrop Grumman, Deloitte LLP, SAIC Inc. General Dynamics and Booz Allen Hamilton. All five of those companies provided information technology services to either the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services or the Internal Revenue Service, the two agencies tasked with building back components of the health insurance exchanges.

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All but one of the 47 contractors who won contracts to carry out work on the Affordable Care Act worked for the government prior to its passage. Many like the Rand Corporation and the MITRE Corporation–have done so for decades. And some, like Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics, are among the biggest wielders of influence in Washington.

The biggest irony of all this is that Healthcare.gov, a government-run e-commerce website for the Affordable Care Act, does not actually need to exist. The dysfunctional federal site could have offloaded all of the work to startups, which were already building more sophisticated price-comparison alternatives to the official site.

Yet, as the regulations were designed, startups take a backseat to government websites. State exchanges are given the option to interface with private partners. Federal Government claims that state-run websites are necessary to conceal the IRS income data that exchanges use to calculate discounts. The argument is abortive and misleading as there are plenty of existing federal systems that securely transmit personal information with private companies. In fact millions of people use H&R Block or TurboTax type software to file their tax returns, these are privately developed software that regularly handle most sensitive financial data of the filing individuals. It is still unclear why states didn’t prioritize tech companies in the first place. The federal and state governments were overwhelmed with the monstrous task of building a new database for millions of consumers. To this day, most exchanges are still offline.

Tech startups, such as Fuse Insurance, are designing more sophisticated calculators to help consumers find a health plan that takes into account their specific circumstances. “We built a recommendation engine that compares user needs to plan structure, says Fuse Insurance founder Will Richie. “Healthcare.gov does a good job of listing plans, but it doesn’t go so far as to recommend any of them.”

Tech companies already have better ideas. eHealth, for instance, is integrating with the maker of TurboTax to persuade young taxpayers to buy insurance at the moment they have to pay a fine. TurboTax can know if a citizen is uninsured and alert them to an easy-to-purchase health plan right before they pay $95.


Contractors working on the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare 2013) List from the Sunshine Foundation

Company Contract Award Amount Agency Lobbying, 2011-12 Contributions, 2012 cycle
ABT Associates 971322 HRSA 0 37,950
Accenture 2,136,175.98 IRS & CMS 5,590,000 1,188,644
A. Reddix & Associates 0 HHS 0 0
BearingPoint 251,426.56 CDC 6,480,000 4,675,529
Booz Allen Hamilton 2,668,754.00 IRS & CMS 0 415,488
CDM Group 0 Office of Asst. Sec. for Health Except Centers 50,000 1,000
CGI Federal 93,700,000.00 CMS 0 345,650
Client/Server Software Solutions (CSSS.net) 3,880,000.00 IRS 0 0
Computer Sciences Corp. 4,024,384.42 Office of Asst. Sec. for Health Except Centers 3,112,000 683,349
Computing Solutions 7,802,076.24 CMS 0 0
David-James LLC 7,283,208.00 CMS 0 0
Deloitte Consulting 12,921,093.80 IRS & CMS 0 0
Genova Technologies 1,261,259.20 CMS 0 0
George Washingotn Univeristy 51,274.00 CMS 0 309,238
H.S.I. Network 137,340.00 CMS 0 0
Humanitas Inc. 33,836.82 HRSA 0 0
ICP Systems LLC 499,952.00 CMS 0 0
Information Systems Consulting Group Inc. 6,270,789.18 IRS 0 0
International Business Machines 4,999,999.00 IRS 9,740,000 955,642
Intertribal Council of Arizona 97,500.00 Indian Health Service, HHS 0 0
IQ Solutions Inc. 520,000.00 Office of Asst. Sec. for Health Except Centers 0 0
JSI Research and Training Institute 15,500.00 Office of Asst. Sec. for Health Except Centers 0 1,250
KAT Video Productions 106,181.84 CMS 0 0
Macro International Corp. 2,584,665.00 CDC 0 15,000
Maximus Federal Services Inc. 43,163,074.00 CMS 655,500 621,722
McKinsey & Company 13,767,707.00 CMS 0 960,846
Mitre Corp 2,234,783.00 IRS 157,000 136,677
National Opinion Research Center 297,889.00 Office of Asst. Sec. for Health Except Centers 200,000 0
Northrop Grumman 1,666,811.91 IRS 30,310,000 3,067,023
Porter Novelli Public Strategies 11,670,603.00 CMS 0 6,900
PricewaterhouseCoopers 284,150.00 CMS 5,500,000 3,456,523
Quality Software Services Inc (United Health Group) 68,339,812.00 IRS 6,360,000 3,609,103
Rand Corporation 1,044,531.00 Office of Asst. Sec. for Health Except Centers 0 77,285
Research Triangle Institute 404,255.00 Office of Asst. Sec. for Health Except Centers 0 10,850
Science Applications International Corp. 1,772,131.61 IRS 4,207,000 1,210,011
Sentel Corp 5,487,434.00 IRS 0 0
Serco 114,307,266.00 CMS 770,000 180300
Social and Scientific System Inc. 293,280.00 CDC 0 3,700
Soft-Con Enterprises 0 IRS 0 0
Summit Consulting 1,090,753.20 0 4,812
Thomson Reuters Healthcare Inc. (now Truven Health Analytics) 0 CMS 465,000 175,328
Unicom Logistics 6,270,789.00 IRS 0 250
University of California (SF) 12,000.00 Office of Asst. Sec. for Health Except Centers 1,570,000 3,363,813
Urban Institute 1,988,575.00 Office of Asst. Sec. for Health Except Centers 0 50,484
Vangent (General Dynamics) 28,237,831.00 CMS 22,348,085 2,403,354
Verizon Business Network Services 1,193,916.00 IRS 30,910,000 4,167,997
Weber Shandwick 3,477,364.00 Office of Asst. Sec. for Health Except Centers 0 0
Westcott, John 24599 HRSA 0 0
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