KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Vows To Fix Insurance Website, But No Details Offered

The Obama administration has been tight-lipped about the cause of the website problems, who has signed on to fix them and what their timetable might be. News outlets report on ideas advanced by technology experts and explore the practical and political ramifications of delayed enrollment.  

Kaiser Health News: How Long Does Obama Have To Fix
They've got a few weeks. But if federal officials can’t get the new online insurance marketplace running smoothly by mid-November, the problems plaguing the three-week-old website could become a far bigger threat to the success of the health law, hampering enrollment and fueling opponents’ calls to delay implementation, say analysts (Appleby, 10/21).

Bloomberg: Obamacare Crashes Months In Coming Not Easily Repaired
The frantic weeks before the start of Obamacare were marked by a chaotic effort in which officials failed to complete exhaustive testing of the program’s website in a push to begin signups by Oct. 1, according to people involved in the rollout. The federal site -- which has been plagued by software bugs -- went live without attempts to replicate a customer’s complete experience, said a person familiar with the project who asked not to be identified to discuss what happened (Dorning, Wayne and Miller, 10/22).

Fox News: ObamaCare Website Fix-It Team Faces Massive Undertaking, Warning Signs Detailed
The overhaul of the broken ObamaCare website could be a massive undertaking, with one specialist reportedly saying 5 million lines of code may have to be rewritten and indications that the newly hired tech team may need weeks to repair the system. The details come amid reports that, in advance of the Oct. 1 launch of, several issues had raised red flags among the very people charged with putting the website together. The administration is now in a scramble to fix the problems that have prevented many from signing up for health insurance online. President Obama on Monday directed the public to apply over the phone or by mail -- but at the same time, the White House did not rule out delaying the health law's 2014 requirement on individuals to buy insurance (10/22).

NBC News: Better Use The Phone: Why Obamacare Website Is Such A Fail[ure]
The Obama administration has been tight-lipped on just what the problems are with the website, which was originally billed as something resembling Travelocity for health insurance — a place online where people could go to compare one plan to another and get a price. But experts point out that was never that simple. While most in the industry are confident that Obama can keep his promise to eventually fix the site, they say there are multiple places where things may have gone wrong. “Buying a health plan is a lot more complicated than buying a flight," says Brandon Cruz, president of GoHealth, a private health insurance marketplace. “When you’re buying a health plan, you need to know all the doctors in the network, what you deductible will be, what your co-insurance will be. And the terminology is so foreign” (Fox, 10/21).

NPR: The 'Tech Surge' Is Racing Against The Clock
A "tech surge" is underway to help clean up the code of the error-plagued site. The Obama administration says this surge is made up of engineers from inside and outside government, but beyond saying that Presidential Innovation Fellows are involved, officials haven't specified who's making up those teams and what exactly they're doing to fix the systemic issues with the site. Either way, tech industry leaders say the tech system — responsible for helping people in 36 states get health coverage — may have such deep flaws that it could take several months to fix them (Hu, 10/21).

Politico: ACA Team: Best, Brightest — And A Mystery
The “best and the brightest” also appear to be the cloaked and elusive. President Barack Obama insists he’s culled the country’s tech elite to help repair the mangled website. But the administration hasn’t made its smart new crew public, and any of the tech companies or federal contractors involved remain tight-lipped. The silence may stem from a tangle of obstructions and fears — from the complex legal requirements for federal procurement contracts to the increasingly volatile politics associated with Obamacare.“Experts from some of America’s best private sector tech companies” have volunteered to help, Obama said from the Rose Garden on Monday. “They want it to work. They are reaching out.” But it’s not even clear to some in Silicon Valley how tech could save it (Meyers and Romm, 10/21).

CBS News: What's Being Done To Fix Obamacare Site Bugs?
The Obama administration is relying on the nation's insurance industry to help fix But insurance firms have complained the administration did not reveal the full design of the site until the day of launch -- when it was too late to suggest changes (Andrews, 10/21).

Politico: Ezekiel Emanuel Wants Obamacare Website Briefings
Former White House health care adviser Ezekiel Emanuel said Monday that the administration should be giving “wonky” daily briefings on what is wrong with the health care exchange website — and how they’re going to fix it. “I think they need to have daily briefings and they need to give us milestones over the next four weeks as to what we should look for for improvement. Reassurance verbally is not worth much at this point,” Emanuel said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” The former adviser to the Office of Management and Budget, who left the administration in 2011, said the briefings should be detailed (Kopan, 10/21).

ABC News: How Steve Jobs Would Fix Obamacare
With a product desperately in need of improving, it's no wonder that Obama has Steve Jobs on the brain. Jobs, the founder of Apple and the man behind the iPod and iPhone, was known to be a brilliant innovator, not because he invented new things, but because he improved on existing technologies. "Consider that just a couple of weeks ago, Apple rolled out a new mobile operating system. And within days, they found a glitch, so they fixed it. I don't remember anybody suggesting Apple should stop selling iPhones or iPads -- or threatening to shut down the company if they didn't," Obama recently told reporters. "That's not how we do things in America. We don't actively root for failure. We get to work, we make things happen, we make them better, we keep going." Obama's not the only one evoking Apple and Jobs to make a point about Obamacare. Conservatives have also used Jobs, who died in 2011 ... as evidence that the government should never have gotten involved in selling insurance and building websites (Goldman, 10/21).

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