Sebelius Dodges Questions on Obamacare Woes

In an interview with CNN's Sanjay Gupta, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius offered platitudes but few answers on what's wrong with HealthCare.gov

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Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

President Barack Obama, accompanied by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, announces a revamped contraception policy on Feb. 10, 2012, in Washington

President Obama’s top official in charge of the Obamacare rollout had few answers for CNN’s Sanjay Gupta when he questioned her about the glitches plaguing HealthCare.gov in an interview Tuesday night.

“We are not at all satisfied with the workings of the website,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said. She said the volume of people coming to the site “caused some problems but it also exposed some additional problems.”

Sebelius would not answer questions about reports of prelaunch testing that may have signaled problems with the site before it opened to the public, nor would she give specifics on how many people have signed up for health insurance through the HealthCare.gov portal. “What we can tell you is that thousands of people have signed up,” she said, offering that more than half a million accounts have been created on the site. She declined to say if there is a possibility that the individual mandate requiring Americans to buy insurance or face a penalty might be postponed because of the technical problems many have faced in purchasing insurance through the federal Web portal.

Sebelius said the President was not aware of glitches on the site until after the Oct. 1 launch. She would not say if she had discussed calls for her resignation with the President.

“We have a product and the product really works. We have created a market where there wasn’t a market,” Sebelius said.

“We’re early in the first quarter in football terms.”

25 comments
shepherdwong
shepherdwong

"The reasons are far more complex than the media or people want to hear."

"All the heavy lifting takes place on the back end, when the website passes your data to an extremely complex array of systems that span multiple agencies (like so many cooks in a kitchen). A central processing hub needs to get data from each of these systems to successfully serve a user and sign up for insurance. And if one of these systems — several of which are very old in IT terms– has a glitch and can’t complete the task, the entire operation fails for that user. Only if everything works perfectly, and the data gets passed back to the website, does the user have a good experience with Healthcare.gov."

"Given that 25 states (or more) refused to create their own exchanges, the federal government became responsible for creating all of them, in one application. That’s 25 exchanges each with multiple insurance providers, all of which likely have their own unique interface requirements, meaning that they need to receive information from Healthcare.gov in a format they can use, or can at least re-format, to work in their own enterprise architecture."

http://www.balloon-juice.com/2013/10/23/interfacing-is-a-pita/ (from TPM)

SukieTawdry
SukieTawdry

I'm simply flabbergasted that no health insurance market existed until the president and secretary created it. I wonder what marketplace I was operating in back in the days when I used to assess and purchase health insurance packages for my employers.  

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

Sebelius Dodges Questions on Obamacare Woes 

My dad had a pat answer when one of us kids asked what was wrong with the car or something in the house that wasn't working right: "if I knew, I'd fix it."

Sebelius doesn't write code nor does she probably even hire the people who do. Anybody ever use Windows ME or Vista? And they're the biggest software maker in the world and can take as long as they like to work out the bugs and roll out a new product.

paulejb
paulejb

Why would Sebelius know anything about ObamaCare? She is only the Secretary of HHS whose powers are spelled out some few thousand times in the ObamaCare law.

“Secretary” Mentions in Law * 

“Secretary” 3267 times 

“Secretary shall” 1051 times 

“by the Secretary” 651 times 

“Secretary may” 371 times 

“Secretary determines” 222 times 

“Secretary under” 80 times 

“Secretary in consultation” 39 times 

http://www.cchfreedom.org/pr/ObamaCareCzar.pdf

Maxwells
Maxwells

Apparently Sebelius wants some States to 'dodge questions' too.


"Feds ask Blue Cross Blue Shield not to release exchange numbers"
October 22, 2013

"FARGO – The Obama administration asked North Dakota’s largest health insurer not to publicize how many people have signed up for health insurance through a new online exchange, a company official says.

During a Monday forum in Fargo for people interested in signing up for coverage via the exchange, James Nichol of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota told the crowd his company received the request from the federal government earlier Monday. Nichol is a consumer sales manager for the company."

inforum.com/event/article/id/416090/

destor23
destor23

I'm sorry, evasive, seriously?  Calling for her resignation?  Seriously?  Journalism is about having a sense of proportion, Denver.  Nobody should lose a cabinet level job over a malfunctioning website.

bojimbo26
bojimbo26

( LOL ) Since when does a politician know how a computer system works ?

SmailBuzzby
SmailBuzzby

She was pretty lousy on The Daily Show recently, too.

j45ashton
j45ashton

You know why companies like Google & Facebook are successful?  Because they're run by people who understand IT.  Half of the large IT projects I've known of that are driven by non-IT-savvy business people fail.  The reasons are far more complex than the media or people want to hear. 

Murderous_Gateaux
Murderous_Gateaux

Well, this might finally be the bit that finally explodes Darrell Issa's car-thieving, firebug heart. Is apoplexy covered under the ACA?

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

@SukieTawdry "I wonder what marketplace I was operating in back in the days when I used to assess and purchase health insurance packages for my employers."

One where people could be prevented from being covered for a pre-existing condition or go bankrupt from getting sick, and that cost twice as much as any healthcare marketplace in the industrialized world.

reallife
reallife

Did your father work for the government by chance? LOL

paulejb
paulejb

@destor23 

Gross incompetence is usually a firing offence, Destor.

Maxwells
Maxwells

@bojimbo26 Good Point, then why are 'politicians' the ones selecting the contractor to perform the work? Had this been a bid contract, many companies could've made presentations and proposals for the work to be performed, but after awarding a non-bid contract to a politically appointed contractor, this is what you get.

j45ashton
j45ashton

@bojimbo26 Essentially we're talking about high level managers who are requesting IT services.  Within that relationship every requester has a role to play...right to the top.  Where those roles are well defined and accountable and there are escalation procedures, success is much more likely.   

S_Deemer
S_Deemer

@j45ashton This reminds me of the NSA official who testified before Congress earlier this year, and said that Snowden could not have accessed the files he said he had, because the system would not permit it. I don't think he was lying, so much as he was clueless as to how the NSA's systems worked. 

In many cases, even if someone at a high level is briefed on the technology, in all likelihood, the content simply goes right over their head. But, there are also a lot of people in upper management who, while they may not be IT-savvy, per se, are very good at managing projects, and making sure that systems are tested and on track at critical milestones.

Did this sort of oversight exist with the healthcare.gov rollout? Probably not, but we have very limited information at this time. Would someone like Harper Reed have made a difference as CTO for healthcare.gov? Possibly, but it's hard to imagine someone like him fitting in government bureaucracy.

SukieTawdry
SukieTawdry

@shepherdwong @SukieTawdry

Oh, really? Because the health insurance marketplace (California) in which I operated had the Major Risk Medical Insurance Program (MRMIP) available for people with pre-existing conditions who could not get insurance elsewhere (it "transitioned" its subscribers to the federal program as of July 1). You no doubt would be surprised by how many states had something similar. This was not a problem that went unaddressed. 

The ACA, by the way, does nothing to address the high cost of healthcare in America. 

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

@reallife"Did your father work for the government by chance?"

Yes he did. And he wrote code too. And whenever he said, "[i]f I knew, I'd fix it," he'd figure it out and fix it. Never had a mechanic touch his car or anyone do work on the house, including when he installed central air conditioning. Smartest man you've never met.

j45ashton
j45ashton

@S_Deemer @j45ashton It's true.  When I started in IT over 20 years ago, one of the biz people used to refer to the IT staff as witch doctors.  In a world that is so dependent on IT where very often the product offered now is essentially made up of IT, it's still surprising to me that so many business managers & executives haven't a clue when it comes to understanding their roles & responsibilities  with respect to IT development. 

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

@SukieTawdry

"This was not a problem that went unaddressed...The ACA, by the way, does nothing to address the high cost of healthcare in America."

You're hallucinating or just plain ignorant. Millions of Americans have had untreated illnesses or died because they couldn't get insurance or afford care. Many were denied care even when they had insurance because of industry policies and practices. 

"The Affordable Care Act holds Medicare’s cost growth to GDP plus one percentage point, which makes a lot more sense. It’s the target Ryan’s Medicare plan originally used, back when it was called Ryan-Rivlin. But the target is not really the important part. The important part is how you achieve the target. And the Affordable Care Act actually includes reforms and new processes for future reforms that would help Medicare — and the rest of the medical system — get to where the costs can be saved, rather than just shifted."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/post/the-democrats-have-a-plan-for-controlling-health-care-costs-paul-ryan-doesnt/2011/04/08/AFeF9f1C_blog.html