NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

ObamaCare's Technology Mess

October 4, 2013

President Obama was bracing Americans for inevitable problems as the Affordable Care Act rolled out this week, but what he calls "glitches" are hardly routine. Information technology is ObamaCare's Achilles' heel. The faulty IT will expose Americans to lost data, attempts to enroll online that fail and the risk of fraud, say Scott Gottlieb, a physician and resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and Michael Astrue, the Commissioner of Social Security until earlier this year.

There are two key technological flaws in ObamaCare.

  • First is the "hub" -- the software to link servers at the Treasury Department, the Internal Revenue Service, Homeland Security and state agencies to verify the income and health insurance status of enrollees and ensure that they are eligible for subsidies.
  • The other flaw is the "portal" -- the federally run IT platform that is supposed to let consumers compare health plans and select one that best suits their needs.

The biggest risk involves data security.

  • The Obama administration created unnecessary opportunities for fraud with the White House's insistence on funding favored community groups to employ "navigators" to solicit applicants and help them input their personal information, such as income and Social Security numbers.
  • The navigators were hastily hired and trained (they are still being hired) and were not given extensive background checks.
  • The personal data for millions of people will be entrusted to these navigators -- and to a computerized system that has been rushed into operation.

Another technological hurdle involves health insurance subsidies.

  • At least a half-dozen states, including Colorado and Oregon, have said that they won't offer full online enrollment through their exchanges because the federal hub that is supposed to link to help them determine the subsidies people are eligible for isn't working properly.
  • A link to Medicaid agencies also isn't functioning, which is necessary to ensure that someone applying for a subsidy under a health plan is not Medicaid-eligible under his state's rules.

As for medical care, the current ObamaCare software doesn't even try to take a serious stab at letting consumers match the health plans on the exchanges with their particular medical needs, or with their providers, at the point of enrollment.

The technology and privacy problems presented by ObamaCare aren't likely to be mere rough patches that can be easily smoothed over.

Source: Scott Gottlieb and Michael Astrue, "ObamaCare's Technology Mess," Wall Street Journal, September 30, 2013.


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