CBS: 'Problems', 'Trouble' Still Hamper 'Revamped' ObamaCare Website
Monday's CBS Evening News and Tuesday's CBS This Morning both underlined the continuing problems with HealthCare.gov, even after the Obama administration claimed "it met its deadline to make HealthCare.gov work smoothly for the vast majority of shoppers". Meanwhile, the network's competitors at NBC hyped the supposed positive news about the ObamaCare website.
Wyatt Andrews noted how the White House "says that 375,000 people tried to shop on HealthCare.gov," but soon touted how "that high a number created some problems". The following morning, Major Garrett reported that "the challenges are not over" for the online health insurance clearinghouse [MP3 audio available here; video below]
Andrews led his report for CBS Evening News with his "some problems" detail about the ObamaCare website. The correspondent then zeroed in on the case of a Florida woman who, after three failed attempts to purchase insurance, was put into a new virtual waiting list on HealthCare.gov. He detailed how the "queue", as the Obama administration is calling it, "promises an e-mail when it's their turn. But despite promises the website could handle 50,000 users at the same time, the queuing system was turned on today at approximately 35,000 users."
The CBS journalist soon added that "there are also potential problems for the thousands who have signed up for new plans. Officials are just now building the system for how insurance companies will be paid, and the companies say their enrollments are slow because of bad information coming from the government."
Anchor Scott Pelley ended the segment by asking Andrews whether the Florida woman, named June Miles-Mays, was eventually able to enroll on HealthCare.gov. The correspondent replied that "she finally filled out a paper application. That means she'll learn about her enrollment probably in a week or two."
The following morning, Garrett highlighted how "the administration says 750,000 users came to HealthCare.gov on Monday, and the system did not crash. But the White House declined to say how many of those users enrolled; how many simply shopped; and how many were shuttled into that come-back-later queue." He also featured Miles-Mays, but added information about the ObamaCare applicant that his colleague left out – that "she hasn't had insurance for five years, due to diabetes and other pre-existing conditions – precisely the kind of consumer ObamaCare is supposed to help. The website kept telling her to wait."
Nearly two weeks earlier, Garrett's report on the November 20, 2013 edition of CBS This Morning stood out as the only mention on the Big Three morning newscasts of Henry Chao's stunning revelation to Congress – that a significant portion of the I.T. infrastructure needed to support HealthCare.gov has yet to be built.
The full transcripts of Wyatt Andrew's report from Monday's CBS Evening News and Major Garrett's report from Tuesday's CBS This Morning:
06:37 pm EST
CBS Evening News
SCOTT PELLEY: The health care website faced its first big test today, since the Obama administration said that it met its deadline to make HealthCare.gov work smoothly for the vast majority of shoppers. Trouble since the site's debut in October has cut into enrollments. We learned today that 100,000 signed up online in November, for a total of more than 206,000 so far, but that is a million short of the enrollees projected.
Wyatt Andrews has been checking into the website today. Wyatt?
WYATT ANDREWS: Scott, the administration says that 375,000 people tried to shop on HealthCare.gov, and that was before noon today. Officials called that a strong sign of interest – but again, that high a number created some problems.
ANDREWS (voice-over): When June Miles-Mays tried to sign up for ObamaCare at a Miami health center, the website put her on hold.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 1: Yes, sir-
ANDREWS: 'We need you to wait', the site advised, 'so we can make sure there's room for you'. It was her third attempt at signing up.
JUNE MILES-MAYS: It's very frustrating to me, because I need insurance so badly. And it seems like something in the system – or something is not working.
ANDREWS: The 'need you to wait' prompt is a new feature of HealthCare.gov. When the system is overloaded, it puts applicants in a queue, and promises an e-mail when it's their turn. But despite promises the website could handle 50,000 users at the same time, the queuing system was turned on today at approximately 35,000 users. Officials said they had to maximize the smooth user experience of those who applied first.
There are also potential problems for the thousands who have signed up for new plans. Officials are just now building the system for how insurance companies will be paid, and the companies say their enrollments are slow because of bad information coming from the government.
Robert Zirkelbach is with America's Health Insurance Plans, the main lobbying group for the industry.
ROBERT ZIRKELBACH, AMERICA'S HEALTH INSURANCE PLANS: They're still receiving files that are duplicative; include missing or inaccurate information; and, in some cases, they're not getting those enrollment files at all.
ANDREWS (on-camera): What is the potential danger or down side to the applicant?
ZIRKELBACH: Well, the – the concern that everybody wants to avoid is a situation where somebody thinks that they're enrolled – but, in fact, they're not.
ANDREWS (live): The White House still argues the website is better than ever, and is enrolling an average of several thousand people every day. Two months ago, 375,000 visitors would have crashed the system. But today, Scott, it held up, and was able to put people in line.
PELLEY: So, Wyatt, did the woman in your story – June Miles-Mays – ever get to sign up?
ANDREWS: Scott, after trying on that website, she finally filled out a paper application. That means she'll learn about her enrollment probably in a week or two.
PELLEY: Wyatt, thanks very much.
07:05 am EST
CBS This Morning
NORAH O'DONNELL: The new HealthCare.gov is getting mixed reviews this morning after its first major test. Many who tried the revamped insurance website say it is working better, but others report that they're still having some trouble. Today, President Obama opens a new effort to highlight the positive side of the Affordable Care Act.
Major Garrett at the White House this morning. Major, good morning.
MAJOR GARRETT: Well, good morning, Norah and Charlie. The President today will try to begin the process of digging out from the rubble of the ObamaCare rollout. In a speech here, the President will tout the benefits already provided under the Affordable Care Act, and the risks he sees in trying to repeal that law. Democrats running for reelection next year remain panicky. This is the President's first concerted effort to calm them down.
[CBS News Graphic: "Getting Better: New Effort To Highlight Improved HealthCare.gov"]
GARRETT (voice-over): The White House is changing its tone – highlighting the achievements of ObamaCare and the progress that has been made since the botched launch of the HealthCare.gov website just two months ago. But the challenges are not over, and now, there's a new word for the ObamaCare dictionary: 'queue'. That's the line frustrated consumers are sent to when the health care website cannot handle a surge in traffic. If the site is clogged, users can enter their e-mails and receive a message back when the site is ready to process their application. The White House calls this a significant improvement.
JAY CARNEY. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY (from press briefing): The queue-ing system – the more sophisticated, improved queueing system – is a feature designed to improve the user experience.
GARRETT: The administration says 750,000 users came to HealthCare.gov on Monday, and the system did not crash. But the White House declined to say how many of those users enrolled; how many simply shopped; and how many were shuttled into that come-back-later queue.
At a Miami health clinic, 56-year-old June Miles-Mays tried for a third time to purchase insurance through the website. She hasn't had insurance for five years, due to diabetes and other pre-existing conditions – precisely the kind of consumer ObamaCare is supposed to help. The website kept telling her to wait.
JUNE I'm hoping everything goes well – you know, and goes through for me, because I really do need health coverage.
GARRETT: Eventually, Miles-Mays filled out a paper application.
The administration expects an even bigger traffic surge in two weeks. That's when consumers will probably rush to acquire insurance coverage by January 1. To qualify, those applicants must enroll by December 23.
CARNEY: I would certainly agree that that is an important period – that, you know, all these days in December are important, and every day from now until March 31 is important.
GARRETT (on-camera): The White House says it's fixed a glitch in the website that prevented Social Security numbers from reaching insurance companies. That defect accounted for 80 percent of the bad data that was going to insurance companies from potential enrollees. Troubleshooters are still working on the 20 percent of bad data that remains. Norah and Charlie?
CHARLIE ROSE: Thanks, Major.
— Matthew Balan is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Matthew Balan on Twitter.