Thursday, October 3, 2013

So...How's That Obamacare Thing Working Out?

Calling it a "rough start" would be generous, I think.  

Not a single successful registration to one of Louisana's new plans.

In Kansas and Missouri it was "more fizzle than bang."  Nationally, reporters tried -- and failed -- to access the system in numerous states.

Heritage has a "by the numbers" round-up of day 1:
0—Enrollment navigators certified in Wisconsin in time for the start of enrollment.
0—Individuals one North Carolina insurer was able to sign up for subsidized insurance.
3—Months President Obama warned Americans could face glitches when trying to sign up.
4—Hours Maryland’s exchange opening was delayed.
7—Miles one Indiana resident drove to obtain enrollment assistance; after receiving little information and a four-page paper application, the potential applicant called the trip “a waste of time.”
22—Actual enrollees in Connecticut’s exchange out of more than 10,000 individuals who visited the website by mid-afternoon, a conversion rate of 0.22 percent.
34—Minutes one Politico reporter listened to “smooth jazz” before reaching an actual call-center representative.
35­—Minutes one MSNBC reporter spent attempting to enroll online, before finally giving up.
47—States whose exchange websites “turned up frequent error messages.”
1,289—Days between the signing of Obamacare and yesterday’s launch, a gap which prompted one insurance broker to comment, “You would just think that with all this time they’ve had to get it set up and ready to go there would have been a better premiere.”
2,400—Individuals who had their Social Security numbers and other personal data disclosed even before the exchanges opened for business.
Day two was even worse.  More providers failed to get a single successful registration.

And remember...they had three years to prepare for this day!  The incompetence here is staggering, and it just further illustrates how the government should not be allowed to manage this system.  This was no surprise, though, despite the HHS claiming they would be "ready" on time for months.  Unfortunately, it means that the functionality and privacy of the people in the system -- and their data -- is tremendously vulnerable:
Additionally, thousands of federal and state officials and Obamacare “navigators” will have access to Americans’ information, all but guaranteeing that personal information will be mishandled. Even worse, federal guidelines do not require navigators to pass a background check and call for only 20 hours of training before granting navigators access to personal information.

These will not be the last of the government’s Obamacare cyber troubles, either. The government’s cybersecurity woes have been well-documented by Heritage, and the issues with the Obamacare exchanges are merely continuing this troubling trend.

The cyber risks in the Obamacare exchanges endanger Americans by making them more susceptible to identity theft, insurance fraud, and other crimes. Add to that a whole host of other Obamacare failures, delays, special exemptions, broken promises, and unintended consequences, and it is clear why this law is bad for Americans.
There's a lot of high-fiving amongst Obamacare supporters about the exceptionally high interest in signing up...but those numbers were (ahem) inflated:
California's health insurance exchange vastly overstated the number of online hits it received Tuesday during the rollout of Obamacare.

State officials said the Covered California website got 645,000 hits during the first day of enrollment, far fewer than the 5 million it reported Tuesday.

The state exchange had cited the 5 million figure as a sign of strong consumer interest and a major reason people had so much difficulty using its $313-million online enrollment system.

Dana Howard, a spokesman for Covered California, said the error was the result of internal miscommunication.

"Someone misspoke and thought it was indeed 5 million hits. That was incorrect," he said.

Howard said the revised Web traffic still represents a huge response. He said the number of unique online visitors Tuesday was 514,000 and the state received 19,000 calls.

More details:
California, the ultimate blue state whose federal lawmakers voted overwhelmingly in support of Obamacare, turned less than 1 per cent of its Web visits into 'Covered California' participants on Tuesday.

'We had over 5.7 million hits to our website as of 3 p.m. yesterday,' Covered California spokeswoman Kelsey Caldwell told MailOnline Wednsday.

'7,700 consumers began their application process yesterday. ... 4,143 applications are pending,' she added. 'We received 23,269 calls yesterday to our service center.'

Caldwell couldn't say how many of the 5.7 million website hits were from unique Californians. But assuming 712,500 online visitors saw eight different Web pages each, the sign-up rate was 0.58 per cent.

Connecticut saw a similarly low rate of interest. Democratic Congressman Jim Himes tweeted after 8:30 p.m. Monday that his state's health exchange had 'received 28k visitors, and took 167 applications for health insurance. Day 1.'

That indicates just 0.59 per cent of Connecticut residents who sought information about their state's Obamacare program on Monday decided to become part of it, according to Access Health CT spokeswoman Kathleen Tallarita.

New York Department of Health executive director Donna Frescato said in a statement that 'more than 12,000 business owners and individuals from across the state have shopped online for low-cost health insurance plans ... and the site has received nearly 30 million web visits.'

A spokesman didn't respond to a request for clarification about whether those 12,000 people completed applications for health coverage. If they did, and if each 'web visit' corresponded to a New Yorker who saw 8 pages, the state's enrollment rate would be the lowest of all – 0.32 per cent.
Remember earlier in the week where we saw that Obamacare enforcers in the IRS had to be trained not to leave personal information on fax machines?  Well, it appears incompetence wasn't the only problem we will have to deal with:
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius controls a $54 million slush fund to hire thousands of “navigators,” “in-person assisters” and counselors, who are now propagandizing and recruiting Obamacare recipients into the government-run exchanges. As I warned in May, the Nanny State navigator corps is a serious threat to Americans’ privacy. Background checks and training requirements are minimal to nonexistent. A history of fraud is no barrier to entry.

Case in point: the seedy nonprofit Seedco. This community-organizing group snagged lucrative multimillion-dollar navigator contracts in Georgia, Maryland, Tennessee and New York. The New York Post reports this week that the outfit “is partnering with dozens of agencies, such as the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, Food Bank for New York City and the Chinese American Planning Council, in each of (the Big Apple’s) five boroughs.” They’ll have access to potential enrollees’ income levels, birthdates, addresses, eligibility for government assistance, Social Security numbers and intensely personal medical information.

Given the enormous responsibility to handle sensitive data in a careful, neutral manner, combined with the overwhelming pressure to boost Obamacare enrollments, you’d think the feds would only choose navigators with the most impeccable records. Yet, less than a year ago, Seedco agreed to settle a civil fraud lawsuit “for faking at least 1,400 of 6,500 job placements under a $22.2 million federally funded contract with the city.”

Seedco’s corrupt behavior went far beyond defrauding taxpayers through abuse of New York City programs, federal Labor Department funding and federal stimulus dollars. Seedco (which stands for “Structured Employment Economic Development Corporation”) tried to destroy and defame whistleblowing official Bill Harper, who discovered and reported the rampant falsification of data.

First, Seedco denied the charges; next, they trashed Harper’s reputation in the pages of The New York Times. Only after the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan brought suit did the organization acknowledge systemic, repeated wrongdoing. Seedco forked over a $1.7 million settlement in December 2012. Mere months later, they were racking up federal Obamacare navigator work.


The Nonprofit Quarterly noted that Seedco’s fraud was “kind of breathtaking” in its “creativity and illegal audacity”
While the debacle is rolling out to engulf the nation, the government "shutdown" persists (I use the term loosely because it's really not a shutdown).  But, the subject should be discussed a bit, so let's get to it. 

I think it's very interesting that 95% of the Department of Education is classified as non-essential personnel.  Kinda makes you wander if we should have that department in the first place, doesn't it?  It's certainly not in the Constitution!

Another interesting thing to note is that some non-essential things have been closed that actually don't need to be closed.  You know, like the World War II Memorial.  There's no reason it needed to be shut down, but the Office of Management and Budget (which reports directly to the President) ordered it to be barricaded from the public.  Why would they do that, if not to further aggravate tensions and generate even more heat in their propaganda battle against Congressional Republicans?

Veterans can rest assured, though, that they are not alone in their political persecution by this White House.  The Democrats in the Senate have now voted down a standalone bill proposed by the Republicans to restore funding for the NIH, which treats cancer patients.  Harry Reid's response to a reporter's question of helping children with cancer: "Why would we want to do that?"

Like, duh.  That would help Republicans!  It's far more important to demonize them than to be concerned with sick children.

But it's still the Republicans' fault for shutting down everything.  Speaking of which, Barack Obama claims he's "bent over backward" to work with Republicans. He must be conveniently forgetting about all those times (like yesterday) when he simply refuses to negotiate.

Welcome to Obamacare, folks!  You didn't ask for it.  You didn't want it.  But you've got it now.

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