Americans have been wading through the glitchy Obamacare exchange sites for eight days now, and yesterday federal officials shifted the blame for those errors one more time. The New York Times reports that officials said the main technical problem plaguing the exchanges was the failure of a software component designed by private contractors. U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park told the Times that the failure resulted in people being unable to see their insurance options or the federal subsidies for which they qualify.
"At lower volumes, [healthcare.gov] would work fine. At higher volumes, it has problems," Park told the Times. "Right now, we’ve got what we think we need. The contractors have sent reinforcements. They are working 24-7. We just wish there was more time in a day." On Sunday, Park told USA Today that the site would work with less traffic, as it was built to comfortably accommodate only 50,000 to 60,000 individuals at once. Then on Monday, the Obama administration acknowledged that at least part of the problem was the result of software and hardware problems that were being fixed. The failed component designed by private contractors, however, is a new development.
Government officials have declined to say which contractor designed the faulty software, and contractors currently associated with the project — including CGI Federal and Quality Software Services Inc. — have declined to comment on the site issues.
While this private contractor error somewhat absolves the government, it also raises some concerns. As the Times notes, due to the initial hiccups, there are large parts of the exchanges that have yet to be tested, meaning there may be more problems down the road. Some of those problems are already be showing up. Bloomberg reports that some insurers have been receiving "faulty and incomplete" applications from the federal exchange sites:
While it’s not clear how widespread the problem is, the reports from industry consultants are the first hint that the technical troubles faced by consumers trying to enroll in health plans under the Affordable Care Act may also be hitting the insurers. The companies are receiving electronic files that can’t open or have so much missing information on new enrollees they’re unusable, the consultants said.
That's a cause for concern for federally-run exchanges, but several state-run exchanges are actually doing well. In Kentucky, 7,000 people have enrolled in health insurance plans. On Monday, Washington reported that 9,452 individuals enrolled in plans for insurance or its Medicaid program. It's not seven million, but it's a start.