Politics

Healthcare.gov is not all there

Healthcare.gov is not all there

In the course of answering a question from Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO) about how the disastrous Healthcare.gov web system might be improved to help insurance companies get people enrolled, the Deputy Chief Information Officer of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, dropped an unbelievable bombshell: the ObamaCare website is only about 60 percent complete.  (Or he might have been saying 60 to 70 percent remains to be built!  It’s difficult to parse his answer, and he’s clearly just taking an educated guess anyway, which is alarming in and of itself.)

The front end is a poorly-coded bug-ridden disaster that failed every test, but was launched anyway.  Much of the back end simply does not exist yet.

Asked which parts of the system are missing, Chao gave an example: “We still have to build the payment systems to make payments to issuers in January.”  Does he mean the part that sends taxpayer subsidies from America’s new middle-class welfare program to insurance companies, or is he talking about the system that refers premium payments from the insured?  There have been anecdotal accounts of Healthcare.gov staffers claiming they are experiencing unspecified “technical difficulties” with the consumer payment system, and suggesting the customer make direct payments to insurance companies instead.  HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius claimed just a few days ago that she couldn’t produce an accurate total of consumer payments into the system.

Either way, there’s going to be mass chaos in January, not to mention considerable financial disruption for insurance companies that are already looking at an adverse selection death spiral, because the desirable young, healthy customers they needed to squeeze for revenue aren’t signing up.  It won’t make corporate accounting teams any happier to learn that their taxpayer subsidy checks have been delayed.  How long would it take to get the subsidy payments worked out, if the system hasn’t been processing them?  Is it even possible to unscramble an egg like that, given that ObamaCare’s computer system is so crude and unreliable that officials routinely claim they cannot obtain simple data, such as the total number of enrollees?

And if the premium payment system isn’t working, the actual number of fully completed ObamaCare enrollments – under the legal standards set forth by the Affordable Care Act – might be very nearly zero, with just a few weeks remaining until the December 15 deadline for payments to be processed in time for valid coverage on January 1.

When Gardner asked how the 30 or 40 percent of the system still being hastily cobbled together would be tested, Chao ominously replied, “In the same exact manner we tested everything else.”  Given that HealthCare.gov failed all these rushed, half-hearted tests, but was launched anyway – with Chao claiming he was kept in the dark by his own subordinates the whole time – that’s pretty scary.

And then you’ve got a group of security experts testifying before the House of Representatives that “HealthCare.gov has security flaws that put user data at risk despite government assurances,” as reported by Reuters:

“There are actual, live vulnerabilities on the site now,” David Kennedy, head of computer security consulting firm TrustedSec LLC, said in remarks before testifying on the topic “Is My Data on HealthCare.gov Secure?”

In a rapid “yes” or “no” question and answer session, Republican Representative Chris Collins of New York asked the experts about the security of the site:

“Do any of you think today that the site is secure?”

The answer was a unanimous “no.”

“Would you recommend today that this site be shut down until it is?”

Kennedy, Morgan Wright, CEO of Crowd Sourced Investigations and Fred Chang, cybersecurity chair at Southern Methodist University said “yes.”

But they’re not going to shut the site down.  They’re going to leave it running while they’re still using the computer equivalent of duct tape and chewing gum to patch in vital systems that did not exist on launch day.  Security is going to be far, far down the list of concerns during this process, because security testing is extremely time-consuming, and the sand has just about run out of ObamaCare’s hourglass.

Chao is bizarrely insistent that the front end of the website can continue chugging along, servicing the (admittedly small) user base of ObamaCare customers, while the back end is completely disconnected from it, patched together, and tested.  Anyone familiar with computer system architecture will fall out of his seat laughing at that assertion.  We already know the front end of the system has been displaying incorrect data – false price quotes, incorrect subsidy eligibility, and more – because the back end isn’t working, not to mention all the corrupt and useless data insurance providers have reported receiving from the system.

The lawsuits from credit-card theft victims who were compelled by law to use a system the government knew was insecure should be interesting.   How can this insanity possibly be allowed to continue?  Will the President give another embarrassing press conference where he claims nobody told him the system was only about half finished when it launched?  White House press secretary Jay Carney was exceptionally peevish and sarcastic today, sounding like a bratty high-school student when he snapped “Newsflash – the website has issues” to shut down questions from reporters.  He sounds almost as unhappy as the people who believed Obama’s lies about keeping their health plan, and now find themselves legally obliged to use a computer system that’s only half finished.

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