Whenever a new program or system is introduced, there are always at least a few problems that arise. In the case of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as ObamaCare, there have been many technical issues that prevented people from enrolling in health insurance plans using the Marketplace website. The most notable issues were with the federal site, Healthcare.gov, however, some state sites also had issues, due mostly to the significant number of citizens going to the site to enroll at the same time.
Timeline of Most Notable Technical Issues
The target date for rollout was October 1st, 2013, with the individual mandate scheduled to take effect in 2014. The mandate would require all Americans to have minimal essential coverage or obtain an exemption in order to avoid a financial penalty.
- October 2013. The health insurance marketplace on Healthcare.gov opened for business as scheduled on October 1, 2013. A few days before the launch, a small test of the Healthcare.gov website failed. However, the administration stuck to their promised launch date anyway, fearing more backlash if there was a delay.
The website had issues almost right away, causing error messages, delays, and stuck accounts. Congressional Republicans declared ObamaCare a ‘train wreck’ while the administration pushed for additional funding to fix the system. A host of issues were identified, from coding errors that made account creation difficult to bottlenecks of data verification.
President Obama expressed that he was surprised at the issues, having been assured by multiple developers that everything was going to be worked out. He asked Americans for patience and promised that he was pushing for fixes from “some of the best IT talent in the country.”
- November 2013. Despite some improvements, technical issues with the Marketplace continued. In one of several congressional hearings on the issue, Henry Chao, an administration official who oversaw the technical development of the federal health insurance marketplace, testified before a subcommittee of the House Energy and Oversight Committee in November 2013.
Chao reported that much of the development had focused on the customer-facing Healthcare.gov site, and that 30-40% of the back-office functions were not yet complete as of his testimony date. This included accounting and payment systems for the subsidies that consumers would receive from the government. Chao said the work remaining would not affect the ability of Americans to use the Healthcare.gov site, and that the remaining work would be in place by January 2014.
Other officials stated that the federal Healthcare.gov site should by working smoothly for 80% of users by November 30, 2013.There was continued fallout as the government faced questions about who knew, or should have known, about the technical issues before October 1st.
December 2013. As of December 3, 2013, insurance companies were still reporting that faulty data was coming to the from the Healthcare.gov site, which was working much more smoothly from the consumer standpoint. One of the issues that most concerned individuals was that they had mistakenly believed that they had signed up for insurance; in reality they did not even have a file with an insurer.
- Daniel Durham, a vice president for the America’s Health Insurance Plans lobby group, said that insurers were concerned that more consumers would sign up for coverage now that the Healthcare.gov interface was largely working, causing a huge headache for insurers who did not have the time to manually find the mistakes in the data they received.
The Obama administration continued to try to win back support for the ACA as well as for Democrats facing re-election in 2014. Obama encouraged Americans to look at the intent of ObamaCare and to realize that “the law is working”. However, as of December 3, 2013, Obama’s approval rating was at only 38%, a historic low.
The federal Health Care Marketplace has faced a number of technical issues that have made many Americans question the effectiveness of the Affordable Care Act. Some issues are in the process of being fixed and other still loom. Only time will tell what the true effect of ObamaCare will be once the technical glitches have been resolved and the system is fully implemented.