The rollout of Obamacare is not going smoothly. In fact, it is hardly rolling at all. The White House has announced that there are a few glitches but these will be taken care of. House Republicans do not see it that way. The system cost $300 million to build and it crashed and burned as soon as it was implemented. Glitch is fast being replaced with another word — catastrophe.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is in charge of the rollout. Congress asked her to drop by for a chat. Her office kindly refused. She had a scheduling conflict, they said. This did not please them when they found out the conflict was actually a gala at the Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston to honor the progress made in helping individuals with mental illness. Crude jokes went out over the Internet about just exactly who was mentally ill.
And the hits kept coming. Even the lowest peon in Silicon Valley knows you beta-test a product before it is released for commercial use (A field test of the beta version of a product by testers outside the company developing it is normal protocol in the field of software). This software was never beta-tested.
A health insurance exchange isn’t just one site where you can go to register for coverage. You can apply for coverage at the federal site, or you can apply at a site run by the state, who, in turn, can offer third-party sites that provide assistance.
HHS allowed states to build their own exchange. Fourteen, including California, stepped up to the plate. “Navigators” were hired to assist people wanting to enroll. Getting a job was easy. A background check wasn’t required even though navigators have access to detailed personal, financial and health information, including Social Security numbers.
The California Exchange, known as Covered California, has a network of 21,000 enrollment counselors. Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said the counselors are not adequately screened or monitored. Nor is there a plan for investigating complaints. Consumers will have a hard time seeking justice if they fall prey to unscrupulous navigators.
Remember ACORN? This group was disbanded and barred from receiving taxpayer funds in 2009. Well, they are back. United Labor Unions Council Local 100, a New Orleans-based nonprofit, announced it will take part in a multi-state “navigator” drive to help people enroll. I Googled “Navigators Obamacare Jobs” and found that several states have outstanding arrest warrants for people hired for this work.
What else could go wrong? Read on.
John McAfee, founder of McAfee, Inc. security software, appeared on Fox Business Network’s “Cavuto” recently. He said the online component of Obamacare “is a hacker’s dream” that will cause “the loss of income for the millions of Americans who are going to lose their identities.”
Fake websites can be set up to fool people to think they’re signing up for Obamacare. Cybersecurity professionals note that a user clicking on a link might end up at a renegade site that looks the same, and end up divulging his/her personal information.
There are other problems:
• The system was built in violation of the Privacy Act. Family members can access the system and change your coverage without written permission;
• The site does not use a feature that prevents access to cookies stored on a user’s personal computer;
• TrustedSec in Strongsville, Ohio, noted there were no features to prevent an intruder from using an automated program to repeatedly try to enter the site; and
• HHS is allowing states to rely on self-attestation to verify eligibility for public subsidies in states that built their own exchanges. Experience has taught that 20 percent to 25 percent will be ineligible. By the time HHS finds out, it will be too late to recoup the payments.
There is no doubt Big Government is running this. Which means three things: there is no competition; the market will not be run efficiently; there will be no punishment for misdeeds.
Chuck McDougald served as statewide volunteer chair for Carly Fiorina’s campaign for the U.S. Senate. He lives in South San Francisco with his wife and two kids.