Some 25,000 people in New Jersey who think HealthCare.gov successfully submitted a Medicaid application to the state on their behalf have “no idea” their applications are “unusable.” A stunning report from the Bergen Record uncovers glitches that destroyed applications and broke communication between the state and federal government.
The Obamacare individual mandate is forcing thousands of lower-income individuals without insurance to apply for coverage through Medicaid in New Jersey. Directed by the federal government to use HealthCare.gov, many residents did just that and have no idea their application did not go through. According to the Record, about 25,000 applications are simply “unusable”; applicants have “no idea” their applications are not being processed because the website is so laden with glitches the information cannot be read.
Furthermore, the information that New Jersey officials were assured would reach them from the federal government is stuck with the federal government, so even if the applications were usable, New Jersey wouldn’t have them. Officials have not offered any scheduled date in which to expect the problem solved.
Some New Jersey residents who found the site too confusing to even submit their applications (to have them disappear) saved themselves by abandoning HealthCare.gov and turning to the state Medicaid website. One applicant told the Record she eventually used the state website because HealthCare.gov did not give her the option to submit an application, nor could she find the Medicaid-specific program application anywhere. New Jersey found a 35% increase in applications through the state website since the individual mandate threatened to take effect.
The woes of New Jersey’s poor in the face of the Affordable Care Act website debacle are merely the latest in a string of problems with a website so badly constructed it is apparently chronically in disrepair. While the White House relaunched the website at the beginning of the month after its initial launch sent the media on a wild goose chase to find the one person who had been able to successfully use it, the new version was still 40% unbuilt, and continued flaws led federal officials to warn citizens to use the site during the early morning or late at night to avoid overloading with traffic.
One report found that the federal website’s budget tripled in the months before the initial rollout but did little to improve the situation. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told the press in November that the White House considered an 80% failure rate for the website acceptable for the time being because phone lines were open to accept applications as well. The rollout was such a disaster that MSNBC analyst and Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein called the entire operation “terrible” and wondered why no one had been fired.
The website also suffers from major security issues, which mean users of the site risk their private information entered to apply to the program (and the extremely private information security questions ask of users) every time they use it. The site is both vulnerable to attack that would render it even less usable and to information theft.