Fail: New Obamacare Website Snag 'Dramatically Underestimates' Health Costs

Guy Benson
Posted: Oct 23, 2013 12:38 PM
Fail: New Obamacare Website Snag 'Dramatically Underestimates' Health Costs

The "tech surge" is going swimmingly, it would seem. CBS News has the latest on a fresh, er, "fix" to, and how it misleads consumers:

As President Obama promises to fix, his administration is touting what it calls “improvements” in design, specifically a feature that allows you to “See Plans Now.” White House press secretary Jay Carney has said, “Americans across the country can type in their zip code and shop and browse.” Industry analysts, such as Jonathan Wu, point to how the website lumps people only into two broad categories: “49 or under” and “50 or older.” Wu said it’s “incredibly misleading for people that are trying to get a sense of what they’re paying.” Prices for everyone in the 49-or-under group are based on what a 27-year-old would pay. In the 50-or-older group, prices are based on what a 50-year-old would pay. CBS News ran the numbers for a 48-year-old in Charlotte, N.C., ineligible for subsidies. According to, she would pay $231 a month, but the actual plan on BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina’s website costs $360, more than a 50 percent increase. The difference: BlueCross BlueShield requests your birthday before providing more accurate estimates. The numbers for older Americans are even more striking. A 62-year-old in Charlotte looking for the same basic plan would get a price estimate on the government website of $394. The actual price is $634.

A lot of people may be in for a rude awakening if they foolishly trust the new-and-improved government website to accurately estimate their monthly premiums. What are the actual premiums people will have to pay if and when they're ever able to sign up for Obamacare? Someone unearthed this spreadsheet earlier today, and it's been making the rounds for a few hours now. At first glance, it appears to list every plan and every monthly (pre-subsidy) premium within Obamacare's federal exchanges. Time will tell if this data is genuine -- but weren't these numbers supposed to be hidden behind a registration wall? The idea was to hide the sticker shock from consumers until their government assistance could be calculated to soften the blow. An independent analysis performed by National Journal concluded that the "vast majority" of individual market consumers would see costs rise, even after subsidies are factored in. The Manhattan Institute's research pegged the average premium hike for young and middle-aged men at a 99 percent increase, with price tags jumping 62 percent for women. Also included in this apparent data dump: The names, business addresses and phone numbers of every Obamacare navigator. Um, was that intentional, too? Prior to launch, some observers expressed worries about the implications of handing over very sensitive financial and health-related information to Obamacare's under-vetted helpers. Do the data security concerns now cut both ways? In any case, as you mull over these sundry news accounts of premium spikes, limited access, and insurer flight, I'll leave you with this bleak appraisal of (via CNN Money):

Experts say the major problems with the Obamacare website can't reasonably be solved before the end of 2013, and the best fix would be to start over from scratch. After assessing the website, Dave Kennedy, the CEO of information-security company Trusted Sec, estimates that about 20% of needs to be rewritten. With a whopping 500 million lines of code, according to a recent New York Times report, Kennedy believes fixing the site would probably take six months to a year. But would-be Obamacare enrollees only have until Dec. 15 to sign up for coverage starting at the beginning of 2014. Nish Bhalla, CEO of information-security firm Security Compass, said it "does not sound realistic at all" that will be fully operational before that point. "We don't even know where all of the problems lie, so how can we solve them?" Bhalla said. "It's like a drive-by shooting: You're going fast and you might hit it, you might miss it. But you can't fix what you can't identify." Several computer engineers said it would likely be easier to rebuild than to fix the issues in the current system.

There's no way the Obama administration would throw away several years and $300 million-worth of work...would they? That would be too painful an admission of failure. But the fact that experts now believe blowing the whole thing up and starting from scratch would be more effective than trying to fix the current mess is a deeply damning indictment. Tick tock, Democrats. What's your plan?