Doctor Who complete reviews: Into the Dalek
Previous
RANDOM

310,000 Healthcare.gov Enrollees Must Provide Proof Now or Lose Insurance

by IEEE SpectrumSeptember 2, 2014

Photo: Getty Images

IT Hiccups of the Week

Last week, there were so many reported IT snags, snarls and snafus that I felt like the couple who finally won the 20-year jackpot on the Lion’s Share slot machine at the Las Vegas MGM Grand casino. Among IT Hiccups of note was the routine maintenance oofta at Time Warner Cable Wednesday morning that knocked out Internet and on demand service across the US for over 11 million of its customers and continued to cause other service issues for several days afterward; the “coding error” missed for six years by German Deutsche Bank that caused the misreporting to the UK government of 29.4 million equity swaps, with buys being reported as sales and vice versa; and the rather hilarious software bugs in the new Madden NFL 15 American football game, which has players flying around the field in interesting ways.

However, for this week, we just can’t ignore yet another Healthcare.gov snafu of major proportions. Last week, USAToday
reported that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services sent letters to 310,000 people who enrolled for health insurance through the federal website asking for proof of citizenship or immigration status by 5 September or they were going to lose their health insurance at the end of September.

Unfortunately, an untold number of those enrollees sent letters have indeed previously sent the information to CMS, but the information either hasn’t been properly processed or it has been lost by CMS. Even resending the requested information electronically doesn’t always work because of ongoing technical issues with the Healthcare.gov website, USAToday reports. Insurance agents, for example, complain that they are uploading the documentation CMS requested. That information seems to be accepted without an issue, but later CMS says it never received it.

Other enrollees are affected because of data integrity issues with Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration databases, for instance, first and last name transpositions. Compounding the problem, USAToday says, is that back in April all user passwords were reset because of the Heartbleed bug. Not unexpectedly, lots of people can’t remember the answers to their security questions, which means that they can’t reset their passwords, which in turn means no online access to their accounts and no way to upload their documentation.  

The problem of losing information is not confined to the federal site, either. Last week, the Las Vegas Journal-Review reported that some 10,000 out of the 30,000 enrollees to Nevada’s health insurance exchange are having billing and other coverage issues with their insurance plans. It is not uncommon, the Journal-Review stated, for enrollees to have paid their premiums in full and on time, have bank statements showing withdrawals to prove it, yet still be told they never paid their premiums. Inevitably, the premium “nonpayment” leads to a cancellation of their insurance policies, with the enrollees unfairly stuck with paying their medical bills.

In addition, while the state knows of the problems, the Journal-Review says, it doesn’t know to how to deal with them. It seems that the health exchange developer, Xerox, has fouled up the enroll insurance premium billing system so badly that the issue may not be fully resolved until next year when Xerox’s contract expires and the federal government takes over Nevada’s health insurance exchange. In May, Nevada fired Xerox over its inability to fix over 1,500 software issues with insurance exchange.

Also last week, things heated up between Oracle and the state of Oregon over the “who’s at fault” argument concerning the $305 million Cover Oregon health insurance exchange debacle. In early August, Oracle sued (pdf) Oregon in federal district court for $23 million over unpaid bills and interest, alleging that Oregon breached its contract with the company.

Well, Oregon has fired back with a lawsuit of its own. Saying that, “Oracle sold the State of Oregon a lie,” Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum filled a fraud and racketeering lawsuit (pdf) against Oracle for a whopping $5.5 billion. The state also wants to keep Oracle from contracting with any of Oregon’s public corporations or government organizations in the future.

Predictably, each party asserts that the claims against them have no merit, and that they will each prevail in court. I doubt either party really wants to go to trial, since it will no doubt highly embarrass them both for their utter IT project management amateurism and risk mismanagement. I expect — but not before a pack of ravenous lawyers get paid a whole bunch of money — an out-of-court settlement where both sides can claim victory. However, that won’t like happen before each side tries to cause as much grief for the other as possible.

In one last Healthcare.gov note of interest, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General published a report (pdf) on the support contracts given to build the less than stellar federal health insurance exchange. The IG report says that as of February, 33 contractors operating under 60 different contractors have been used to implement the exchange. The contractors have been paid more than $500 million as of February with another expected before the end of the year. Some 20 of the 60 contracts have exceeded their contracted amounts, with 7 of those contracts (so far) exceeding the amount by over 100 percent.

At least $700 million more is estimated to be needed for system maintenance and upgrades, but I suspect that number is highly underestimated given the system’s complexity, the unruly herd of uncoordinated contractors, and the overmatched government oversight involved.


In Other News …

Database Update Problem Affects 8,200 Walgreen Pharmacies

CME Group Says Trading Disruption Caused by Maintenance Gone Bad

Android App Claims National Weather Service website

New IT System Glitch at Ireland’s Bus Éireann Means 30,000 Students Have No Bus Tickets

Computer Problems Keep Alaska’s Credit Union 1 Customers from Accessing Accounts

UK’s East Midland Ambulance Service Loses 41,000 Patient Records

EDF Pays Millions in Fines over UK Customer Complaints Traced to Botched IT System

Florida Alachua County Promises to Fix Voting Glitches

Two Arizona Counties Struggle with Voting Troubles

Electronic Voting Loses Favor in Japan

TennCare Management Explains Ineptitude in Failed System Rollout

StatsCanada Says Being Asleep at Switch Led to Errors

Computer Fault Blamed for US Hypersonic Weapons Test Failure

6,000 LA Resident Still Don’t Have Correct Water Bills after Seven Months

Glitch Causes California State Workers to Receive 200,000 Hours of Unearned Leave Credits

LA Unified School District Students Walk Out of School over Ongoing Student Information Problems

San Diego Unified School District Admits Computer Problems Hurt Students’ College Admission Chances

Computer Glitch Makes Everyone on Modest UK Town Street Property Millionaires

UK’s Virgin Media Repairs Email Glitch

Bank of Ireland Promises to Pay Public Servants After New Processing Issues Surface

South Carolina DMV Experiences Computer Problems

40,000 Speed Camera Tickets Dismissed in Nassau County, New York over Camera Malfunctions

Despite Claims, Florida’s Unemployment System Still Not Fixed

Microsoft Reissues Security Patch After Incapacitating Numerous Windows PCs

Google Software Bug Causes Repeat-Image Issue to Appear in Search

Drivers Unhappy over Unreliable Car Technology

Software Bug Blamed for Two EU Satellites Ending up in Wrong Orbit

ReadThis Article Offline or on your Tablet/Ebook Reader:
What's your reaction?
I Love It
0%
Cool
0%
It's OK
0%
What?
0%
I'm Sad
0%
I Hate It
0%
IEEE Spectrum
IEEE Spectrum is one of our favorite online magazines, you can read this article and many more by checking it out at http://spectrum.ieee.org

Designed by IT