After more than three years, $400 million, and a steady stream of assurances from the Obama administration, the government's healthcare exchanges should have been ready to go.
But the problems with Obamacare, at first brushed off as the result of an overwhelming initial response, run much deeper than the Obama administration would like to admit.
"These are not glitches," an insurance executive who has taken part in many conference calls on Obamacare told The New York Times. "The extent of the problems is pretty enormous. At the end of our calls, people say, 'It's awful, just awful.'"
And while the problems with Obamacare were discussed among insiders for months, warnings that it would almost certainly crash on launch were ignored.
After two weeks of building frustration, everyone wants answers - would-be enrollees, Republican opponents, and embarrassed Democratic supporters.
"The way this [launch] is going is a disaster, I really don't think people should soft pedal what a bad launch this is. They've done a terrible job on this website," Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein said today (Monday) on the MSNBC program "Morning Joe." "We're a couple of weeks in and people can't sign up, people have tried 20, 30, 40 times, I mean it's one thing for that to be true the first three or four days, it's another thing for it to be true two or three weeks in."
The problems with Obamacare (officially known as the Affordable Care Act) are more than just a passing nuisance.
If the reputation of healthcare law gets too badly tarnished, many potential enrollees won't sign up. And the success of Obamacare depends on getting large numbers of people signed up for health insurance to help pay for the subsidies and keep overall costs down.
The Obama administration, and specifically the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that is in charge of implementing the program, doesn't have much time to fix the problems with Obamacare before permanent damage is done.
And given the depth and complexity of the problems with Obamacare, a quick fix may not be possible.
"If we are already running into issues at the user account stage, we're going to run into a lot more issues when we get to the more complex operations at the [subsidy] eligibility determination," consultant Dan Schuyler, who helped design a health insurance exchange in Utah and is now the senior technology expert at Leavitt Partners, told Politico. "That's the reality. It's a very complex process, and I think it's going to get worse before it gets better."
Why There Are So Many Problems with Obamacare
One of the first mistakes the Obama administration made was to put Medicare/Medicaid in charge of coordinating the technical side of the healthcare exchanges rather than a lead contractor that would have been more qualified.
The New York Times investigation showed that Medicare officials simply didn't have the resources to do the job.
Even a private contractor would have struggled with the task of creating the technical infrastructure of such a massive health insurance system.
The Obamacare websites are much more than just a place to sign up for health insurance. The information that enrollees supply must be coordinated with five giant federal agencies - Homeland Security, the Social Security Administration, HHS, the Department of Treasury, and the Department of Justice - as well as the exchanges in individual states and all the participating insurance companies.
Aside from the high number of people trying to sign up, the deeper problems with Obamacare involve all these systems being able to talk to each other. Or not.
The lucky few who have been able to log into the Obamacare website and create accounts have encountered a host of problems. Some are told the profile they just created does not exist. Others have found phantom family members listed in their profiles who cannot be deleted.
One aggravated New Hampshire man, according to his Obamacare profile, now has four wives.
The system isn't working any better for the insurers.
For example, the insurance companies are supposed to get daily reports from the Obamacare system on who has enrolled that day. Sounds simple, right?
But the reports often contain confusing and duplicated information. Often they show that the same person signed up and canceled multiple times in the same day.
In other cases, the enrollment files are missing critical data.
While all of these problems with Obamacare can be fixed, the question is how much time it will take.
"I've heard as little as two weeks or as much as a couple of months," one person familiar with the system's development told The New York Times. Other insiders told the Times that some of the fixes were themselves creating new glitches.
It's becoming increasingly obvious that Obamacare is just the latest example of why bigger government is almost always a bad idea.
We at Money Morning have long been skeptical of Obamacare for just that reason. We have warned for years about its hidden taxes and dangerous complexity. Now that it's here, and there are so many problems with Obamacare, we're not surprised.
That's why we took the time months ago to prepare a special report for our readers telling them not only how to protect themselves from the problems of Obamacare, but how to actually profit from it. Now you can see this report for yourself...
5 New Obamacare Facts You Need to Know
10 Obamacare Insights from Money Morning Readers Living Overseas
Ezra Klein: Obamacare Roll-Out Is a 'Disaster'
Tech Experts Wary of More Obamacare Glitches
The New York Times:
From the Start, Signs of Trouble at Health Portal