Speaker John Boehner jumped all over the Obama administration for plans to disable a key part of the Obamcare website this weekend to resolve “glitches” responsible for overwhelming site after the launch of the Obamacare exchanges.
A statement released by Boehner, reads “The news that its enrollment system is already going offline confirms that the launch of the president’s health care law has been an unmitigated disaster.”
The Health and Human Service Department is burning the midnight oil using overnight hours over the weekend to debug the system. The department did not release a schedule for hours of operation, but a spokeswoman said that the site would be offline at 1 AM ET for a few hours.
Boehner ripped into the White House for dismissing the technical problems as “glitches” and not disclosing how many Americans were able to sign up for plans using what he referred to as a “fatally-flawed system.”
“This announcement is more proof that we need to delay the law and provide basic fairness, just as Republicans have called for. How can this administration tax individuals for not purchasing a product from a website that doesn’t even work?,” Boehner said in the statement.
An effort by congressional Republicans to defund or delay Obamace has led to a stalemate with Democrats, triggering a partial government shutdown last Tuesday. Republicans welcomed the chance to join Boehner in his criticism of the website.
“Americans have seen once again that ObamaCare is not ready for prime time,” Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, the No. 2 House Republican, said in a statement Friday. “A dysfunctional website is the least of that law’s problems.”
The administration put their best spin on the situation, noting the unexpectedly strong interest from millions of consumers, despite reports that the site did not receive the expected amount of registrants.
“Americans are excited to look at their options for health coverage, with record demand in the first days of the marketplaces,” said the White House release that announced the plans.
The statement was unbelievably headlined: “Health Insurance Marketplace Open for Business – Week One Success.”
Federal and state websites experienced serious problems this week, with the private information of at least hundreds being accidentally unsecured that we know of. In some states, including Maryland, officials have also announced they are scheduling repairs.
The federal site, which serves 36 states, was visited by millions of users but many people were simply unable to get on the site. They encountered a screen that told them to wait, and they did, for hours and hours. Refreshing the screen only sent them to the back of the line.
Quite a few got hung up trying to create security questions to protect their accounts. The drop-down menus providing the questions would not populate. As a result, users could not advance through the application process and learn if they were eligible for a tax credit to help pay premiums, forget about actually picking a plan.
Many of those who did make it through the application process were timed out, because they took too long comparing plans.
At the end of the first day at most a handful of people had managed to successfully enroll through the federal site.
By Friday, visitors and enrollments were picking up, but not nearly at the administration’s desired levels. And the administration is not releasing numbers.
“We are pleased that enrollment for health care coverage through the new marketplaces is picking up,” the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association said in a statement. “We expect enrollment to continue to increase.”
The so-called Blues are major providers in the individual insurance market, which they certainly had a crony hand in creating, but some smaller insurers have yet to see any new customers, at all.
By Monday, “there will be significant improvements in the online consumer experience,” said Health and Human Services.
The upgrades include extra capacity for more users to get into the system, more technicians working round-the-clock to fix problems, and new pathways to get to the application faster. However, as far as details relating to their plans, none were given.
Obamacare call centers are also getting more staff — funny considering the government is shutdown and running out of money soon — and HHS said wait times are now down to less than a minute.
The administration previously announced it is adding equipment to handle the high volume of users. Now it looks like software fixes are also needed.
Consumers have until Dec. 15 to enroll for coverage that starts Jan. 1.