A Few Words on Fixing Obamacare’s Glitches

This one was not Obamas fault.

This one was not Obama’s fault.

The discovery of a legitimate problem with the Connect for Health Colorado health insurance marketplace by 9NEWS' Brandon Rittiman, a glitch that has apparently resulted in some 3,600 policyholders not having their health insurance renewed for this year, has become the latest issue with the Affordable Care Act's implementation in Colorado to send Republicans into a frenzy and Democrats scrambling for talking points:

As many as 3,600 health insurance plans that should have automatically renewed this year were canceled because of a design flaw with Connect for Health Colorado, the official state exchange designed to implement the Affordable Care Act.

9NEWS was first to expose the issue last week and now the exchange says it will pro-actively find customers affected and help them re-instate coverage retroactively…

An official Connect for Health training video, uploaded to YouTube on September 9 of last year, informed the audience that customers could inadvertently cancel renewal of their plans by shopping for a potential alternative for 2015.

"If you put a different plan in their cart on October 16, that is going to turn off any auto-renewal of the plan that was indicated in their renewal notice," instructed Kyla Hoskins, Manager of Policy and External Affairs for Connect for Health, in the training video.

There have been legitimate complaints ever since the rollout of the Connect for Health Colorado exchange website that the process for obtaining health insurance is–assuming the website is functioning properly, which it usually is now–not intuitive or friendly, either for customers or those helping them. That the exchange has nonetheless successfully enrolled so many people in Colorado is testament to the overwhelming demand for affordable healthcare. The issue identified with the exchange website in this story, which was apparently considered a "feature" and not a "bug" prior to being identified as a major problem, is a perfect example of the customer service failures the exchange has grappled with–and been, to some extent, properly criticized for. We'll add that Connect for Health's initial response to inquiries from 9NEWS about the problem, essentially dismissing it as user error, will not go down in history as a model of crisis communications.

With that said, news reporting today about the "window shopping glitch" in Colorado's insurance exchange website contains assurances by all involved that every one of these policyholders will have their coverage reinstated retroactively. This roughly 5% of renewing policyholders got treated to another fine example of technological and bureaucratic faceplanting, but at the end of the day, they'll be made whole. The fact is, Brandon Rittiman's reporting was critical to a successful outcome: not least for the 3,600 policyholders who appear to have needed a media spotlight on the problem in order for it to be acknowledged as a problem.

One of the biggest internal dilemmas that Democrats face today is a reflexive defensiveness brought on by years of irrational arguments with the far right. The need to defend major reforms like the Affordable Care Act from an onslaught of hyperbolic bullshit has left some Democrats unable to confront legitimate issues that need fixing. There are signs that this is changing: legislation in the Colorado legislature to tighten oversight of Connect for Health Colorado is passing with bipartisan support. Republicans want to go much, much farther than oversight, of course, and will hype this story out of all earthly proportion to support their contention that the insurance exchange and the rest of Obamacare should simply be repealed.

But that's not what the public wants. Even as they give Obamacare low marks in polling, the same polls show the public wants health care reform to work. For Democrats, the way to prevail is to share the concern of Republicans when glitches happen–but stand firm when they try to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

22 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. exlurker19 says:

    Hey, hey, over here!!!  I'm one of the 3600 folks who got canceled and not renewed.  My insurance company kept taking my money and they swear every Monday that it'll all be fixed by Wednesday–at least for the past 3 weeks in a row.  I told them I want my money back which they said would motivate them to process my renewal.  We shall see.

    Disconnect for health terminated the insurance, then waited 4 days to send through the renewal.  They could not tell me why.  But on the other hand, they did process the renewal on December 17, 2014, and my insurance company hasn't been able to do their part of the process in well over a month. 

    • Moderatus says:

      "Disconnect for Health." That's very funny.

      I'm sorry for your inconvenience, too bad Disconnect for Health isn't.

      • exlurker19 says:

        Moldy, er, Moddy, I am far more angry at my insurer who can't process my renewal, but they can sure take my money.  And keep it.  And then they tell me that this all didn't happen just because I was diagnosed with breast cancer this year.  Insurance companies still suck.  Ocare didn't fix that. But now, I definitely will benefit from Ocare if I have to switch companies, DUE TO NO PRE EXISTING CONDITIONS. 

        Don't you dare say anything nice to me.  Because we disagree on every fundamental belief system in the entire universe, known or otherwise. 

  2. Moderatus says:

    Obamacare needs to be repealed. There are better ways to help people with pre existing conditions and extend access. The reason the website is not "user friendly" is IT IS MADE BY THE GOVERNMENT. Get the government out of the way of people's health care choices.

    I do like the change from denial that Obamacare is a mess though. That's the first step.

    • Canines says:

      I ask (once again) anyone who feels passionately about repealing Obamacare: What is the better way to help people with pre-existing conditions, since you want to repeal something that guarantees people with pre-existing conditions coverage?

      If the answer is more "free market" nonsense that says an individual will have to pay more–that is, if they're "allowed" to purchase it at all–or a state-run pool (how's that better than what we've got now?), then, really, please work on a better answer.

    • Zappatero says:

      There are better ways to help people with pre existing conditions and extend access. 

      …that have never been, nor will ever be, proposed or passed by any Republicans anywhere. NEVER.


      • DawnPatrol says:

        Like Dingleberry #1, Dingleberry #2 does not respond to facts, or to truth. The GOP Borg Consciousness does not permit it.

        • MichaelBowman says:

          I can only imagine how apoplectic Thingy2 was over the disasterous roll-out of the Bush-era Medicare Part D unfunded mandate. 

          • DawnPatrol says:

            It was all "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" from these two gits then. That's also why they and theirs continually elect and reelect all manner of criminals, racists, sex deviants, liars, con artists, frauds, cheats, adulterers and other assorted miscreants. Just show us the R by your name and you're IN, baby!

            Their hypocrisy is exceeded only by their arrogance and aversion to truth.

    • Republican 36 says:

      Since, in your opinion, everything the government does is bad because "its made by the government," you would agree we should close down the U.S. Department of Defense, sit back, and hope the free enterprise system or some other nongovernmental entity provides for the national defense. Right?

  3. BlueCat says:

    This never happens with Medicare. Universal Medicare as our guaranteed basic quality coverage package would solve this kind of problem as well as the problem of being adversely impacted by an employer's religious beliefs. Instead of Medicare only covering the oldest most expensive to cover Americans, costs would be spread over a pool including the young, healthy and much cheaper to cover.  Between that, using the bargaining power leverage that would provide with drug companies and eliminating the cap so that the rich would pay the same percentage as everyone else, we ought to be able to have the the best 21st  century healthcare and coverage system in the world instead of one with outcomes for the average citizen that simply don't come close to measuring up to the rest of the developed world.

    Remember when Rush Limbaugh oddly threatened to move to Costa Rica if ACA passed, a country with an excellent universal public system and private insurers for those who want something extra? Well, expanding Medicare into a universal system could give us a system as good as Costa Rica's or better. Shouldn't the world's super power be able to at least compete with a country like Costa Rica in terms of quality health care access for all? 

    • Duke Cox says:

      Sorry, BC, but this…

      an excellent universal public system and private insurers for those who want something extra?

      …doesn't make a big enough market to make gazillions of dollars for several large insurance companies… just a few, somewhat smaller ones. If that (Medicare for All) should happen here, somebody is gonna have to downsize their yacht….tsk.

      • BlueCat says:

        The way we're going, downsizing yachts is going to be the least of the elites' problems when the Kochs take us to full banana republic status, including the rise of charismatic revolutionaries leading desperate have not masses in bloody revolts. That's pretty much what always happens when things get bad enough for the 99%. The top .001%  and their top 1% minions wind up on the wrong end of the pitchforks and it doesn't end well for the other 99% either. Reigns of terror tend to get way out of hand really fast.  The safest, sweetest, most politically stable societies are exactly what we used to be and are getting farther and farther away from: Broad, prosperous majority middle class with plenty of upward mobility opportunity for those from lower income backgrounds. In societies like that the rich do just fine and can sleep comfortably. Even on their yachts.

  4. Canines says:

    Interesting commentary at the Huffington Post on the case before the Supreme Court:

    Whatever standard the justices decide to use when they hear this case, they’ll now have to reckon with the fact that a key authority in the plaintiff’s case — in effect, the lead witness for the prosecution — says the lawsuit is bunk.

  5. DavidThi808 says:

    A couple of years ago we were driving back from Steamboat and the DOT was rebuilding the highway. It was an amazing & beautiful sight – they had this line of machines on one lane of the highway. Probably close to a mile along all of them moving forward, tightly coupled, at a couple of inches/minute. At the front was old highway, at the back came out new highway. In between it was gobbling up the old asphalt, preparing the roadbed, laying down the new asphalt, and steam-rolling it.

    It was beautiful to see and clearly a very efficient & productive system.

    So why on earth are governments so incredibly inept when it comes to software? Colorado's site was running smoothly we all thought. And then they have these issues. Why so clueless?

    ps – Bugs will happen. It's how they ignored these issues and then their answer was to warn people not to do something rather than to fix it. 

  6. Zappatero says:

    For M and his ilk — Orrin Hatch whispers sweet Obamacare lies in this ear:

    "It's an opportunity that we've failed at for two decades. We've not been particularly close to being on the same page on this subject for two decades," said a congressional Republican health policy aide who was granted anonymity to speak candidly. "So this idea — we're ready to go? Actually no, we're not."

    That might be the most frustrating job in government, being a health policy aide for Republicans. At least he or she isn't overworked.

    "There are a lot of ideas," Senate Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch (UT) told TPM on Tuesday. "If the case goes the way I think it should go … then we've gotta come up with a way of resolving the problems we're in. We're quietly looking at all that and trying to do that.

    (Doing nothing is vewwwwwwwwy quiet, M. -ed.)

    For now, the GOP's goal is to "make the world safe for [Chief Justice John] Roberts to overturn" the Obamacare subsidies, said one prominent outside conservative close to Republican lawmakers and the case, who requested anonymity to speak candidly. "What I worry about is — the goal is to not let our guys look like they're going crazy and letting the world spin into chaos." In other words, Republicans must show they're willing and able to deal with the issue.

    They've had five years.

    Off topic: can we all agree this WP text editor Pols has chosen here is a massive, steaming POS? Jeez, I spend more time fixing format than writing.

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