Data center glitch is latest problem in 'Obamacare' rollout

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON Sun Oct 27, 2013 6:25pm EDT

A man looks over the Affordable Care Act (commonly known as Obamacare) signup page on the HealthCare.gov website in New York in this October 2, 2013 photo illustration. REUTERS/Mike Segar

A man looks over the Affordable Care Act (commonly known as Obamacare) signup page on the HealthCare.gov website in New York in this October 2, 2013 photo illustration.

Credit: Reuters/Mike Segar

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NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A data center critical for allowing uninsured Americans to buy health coverage under President Barack Obama's healthcare law went down on Sunday, the U.S. government said, in the latest problem for the "Obamacare" rollout.

Verizon's Terremark operates the data center behind a federal system for determining eligibility for government subsidies to buy insurance nationwide and hosts HealthCare.gov, the website that makes insurance available in 36 of the 50 states.

The data center experienced a failure on Sunday that led it to lose network connectivity, Health and Human Services Department spokeswoman Joanne Peters said.

Online insurance exchanges opened on October 1 under the law to offer health insurance plans to millions of uninsured Americans. But it has been marred by technical glitches and delays as would-be customers encounter error messages and long waits, often failing to make it through the system despite repeated tries.

"We are working with Terremark to get their timeline for addressing the issue," Peters said in an email. "We understand that this issue is affecting other customers in addition to HealthCare.gov, and Terremark is working (to) resolve the issue as quickly as possible."

Peters said the newest glitch also affected a data services hub - an electronic traffic roundabout that connects numerous federal agencies and can verify people's identity, citizenship, and other facts.

Problems with the data services hub affect customers of both HealthCare.gov and the state-run exchanges. State exchanges had been running smoothly.

The verification is necessary to determine eligibility for tax credits that reduce the cost of monthly insurance premiums, a key provision of the law.

A spokesman for Verizon said the problem would be fixed "as soon as possible."

"Our engineers have been working with HHS and other technology companies to identify and address the root cause of the issue," Verizon spokesman Jeff Nelson said.

Health officials in Connecticut, one of the 14 states, plus the District of Columbia, that launched their own health exchanges instead of relying on federal government sites, said on Sunday that potential customers would not be able to complete the sign-up process for some services but could create accounts and search for pricing comparisons.

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services told Connecticut officials about the outage and gave no indication of when the data services hub would be functioning again, said a spokeswoman for Access Health CT, the Connecticut exchange.

The problems with the rollout of the law have become a political liability for Obama. The White House has said Obama still has "full confidence" in HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, whose department is responsible for implementing the law. Sebelius has faced Republicans calls for her resignation.

(Reporting by Sharon Begley and David Morgan,; Writing by Anna Yukhananov and Emily Stephenson; Editing by Christopher Wilson and Will Dunham)

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Comments (14)
ExDemocrat wrote:
The following is a draft of a speech being prepared by his aides that President Obama will be reading from his teleprompter in November:

“Good evening my fellow Americans. Everyone knows that the Republicans ran up the debt, caused unneeded wars in Iraq and Afganistan, soiled up the environment — and lately — have arbitrarily shut down the government, causing untold damage to ordinary folks.

The say they don’t like me. Their criticism is unending, and often deeply unfair. Unfortunately, it is part of politics these days, and I just let their negative comments roll off me. However, I do take exception to their unfounded charge that I created the Affordable Care Act. They call it “Obamacare,” as a personal affront to me, which doesn’t bother me, as far as it goes, it’s just another one of their many personal attacks. But I do take exception to their scurrilous and untrue allegation, that I am responsible for this legislation.

I’m all for health care for everyone in the U.S. But it is not correct to say that I caused the Affordable Care Act. I made speeches about what I wanted in the bill: lower product prices; new health care access for tens of millions of people without complicating the debt situation; and annual health care cost declines for average folks, for example. But I didn’t write the bill. When I finally received it from the U.S. Congress, there was no time to read it. It was tens of thousands of pages long — several times longer than the Bible even. Due to universal Republican resistance, we had to pass what we had, and there wasn’t much time to do it. Now, I admit, it signed the bill, but it is not correct to say it is mine, much less to name it for me!

For all of my career I have worked tirelessly to help the middle class. I told the Congress that I wanted cheaper health care. The Afordable Care Act makes health care more expensive for millions of Americans. Let’s be honest, folks: it is a disorganized mess! It threatens to cause any number of doctors to leave medicine, so that people have fewer chances to see a doctor. It amounts to another entitlement program that adds $hundreds of billions of unfunded liabilities to the federal government’s already-weak fiscal accounts. I never wanted, or asked, for anything like this. What happened was done for the best and most noble of motives. But in hindsight it was put into effect by people who had waited for a health law for many years, but did it too hastily due to the political pressures and opposition of cruel and selfish Republicans, who oppose health care for all Americans.

So, effective tonight, I call on the Congress to come up with a replacement for the Afordable Care Act. You Members in the House and Senate need to do your jobs. What you did this first time on health care has too many errors. What were you thinking? You can do better. Send me an improved bill. Millions of Americans and I await a better health care law for the United States.

Good night, and God bless America.”

Oct 27, 2013 6:36pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
p19 wrote:
Nothing about Obamacare works. How do you know that these so called glitches are not really Acts of God. This is nothing but a massive wealth transfer scheme and a big payday for AARP.

Oct 27, 2013 7:18pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
kiwibird wrote:
All new systems anywhere in the world have teething problems – be patient people you have had the worst healthcare system in the western world at least your government is attempting to fix it.

Oct 27, 2013 7:53pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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