Journalism in the Public Interest

How the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza Became a Mistaken Poster Boy for Obamacare

“It was the Twitter equivalent of blurbing a book using the one positive line from a review that actually trashed the book,” the Washington correspondent says.

Last week, Ryan Lizza, a Washington correspondent with the New Yorker, did what I and many other journalists have done in the past three weeks: He attempted to sign up for an account on, the federal government’s health insurance marketplace site.

And like me, at least, he initially thought he had succeeded. What follows is an instructive lesson in the speed of the news cycle and how incorrect information takes on a life of its own.

Here’s what happened:

He even tweeted screengrabs showing the steps of his “success.”

But within 40 minutes, he realized what the rest of us already had: His apparent success was illusive.

But at this point, it was too late. His initial tweet caught fire, being retweeted within the White House and even by Press Secretary Jay Carney.

Lizza kept tweeting his problems, but those tweets didn’t get noticed by federal officials.

When I flagged him online that he had become a “success story,” he said he shouldn’t be considered one.

Yesterday, I emailed Lizza and asked if he’d been back to the site. He said he hadn’t yet. But he had strong thoughts about the way in which his initial tweet was used. His email to me:

It seems that the web site launch was such a disaster that the White House was incredibly desperate to retweet any shards of good news.

I considered deleting that tweet because after two senior White House officials retweeted it, it took off and left the false impression that my conclusion was that the site worked, which isn’t the case.

It was the Twitter equivalent of blurbing a book using the one positive line from a review that actually trashed the book.

For what it’s worth, Lizza’s experience was similar to mine (but his was magnified). Here’s mine in a few tweets:

The moral of the story: Be careful with your first tweet. Even if you later amend it, it could take on a life of its own.

And that’s why you do real testing of software before you release it.

This shows how desperate Idiot Obama is for any success.

And this is what passes for the intellectual elite journalists who don’t know the difference between signing on, enrolling, choosing options, signing up, and buying healthcare.
Edward R Morrow is spinning in his grave.

The obama White House is famous for lying and fudging number, like economy numbers, every time they announce positive numbers a week or two later very quietly they lower the numbers and the willing fools in the media never highlight those on the evening news. obama will lie to everyone and claim that millions of people have signed up and yet you will never actually find one.

As they say, ” You Can’t Make Chicken Soup Out of Chicken S” ” t. ”

The Obummer regime is a total joke everything they touch turns to pure crap first Solyndra, then Fast and Furious, then Benghazi, then IRS NSA spying scandal etc. now the granddaddy of them all this Obummercare crap. You can’t make this stuff up Obummer’s entire presidency has been a total joke.

Since there is a big problem with rolling out this website, a logical person might assume that when the problems were discovered, solving them would have been the greatest priority.

  Such is not the case, as evidenced by the fact that government personnel were monitoring the site as well as Twitter for any glimmer of good news. Instead of using those manhours devoted to looking for good news, that time would have been better spent crafting or finding a solution for the problem. Is that what we got in terms of performance? The answer is a resounding NO…instead of dedicating all effort to solving the problem, the White House staff and their minions (as well as the compliant lemmings in the mainstream media) dedicated their efforts to creating a “big lie”.

  This is just another example of how this entire administration is concerned with appearances, but not substance. Those who voted for this pack of idiots are getting exactly what they asked for. I am smiling as I patiently await the big “Duh?” moment when they realize what fools they were at the ballot box.

That whole system will have to be re-written and will probably have to use a commercially available database program as its foundation.  Another Billion or so plus 3 to 5 years and everything should be fine.


It’s not important that it works.

What IS important is that the media reports that it does, whether it does or does not.

Like Pravda reporting record harvests to a starving Soviet Union.

Ill conceived and even worse implementation and go live.

The whole country are beta testers.

This “sign up” website mess is a type of prophetic harbinger of the absolute disaster that the whole health-care experience that people are going to find in “obamacare” as a whole. 

For the life of me, I can’t understand why the democrats would want to foist this mess on the country.  What an irony that they were willing to risk the default to “save” this disasterous bill.  They refused to accept a modest request to give individuals a 1 year delay of the individual mandate.  Now people are going to be on the hook to pay a penalty, even though they won’t be able to sign up. 
  I wonder if the dems have calculated the wonderful regard the people of this country will have for them after that.

It’s Bush’s fault!

4 years to set this up and it still fails,but all is well Obama still give one hell of a speech even if every d@m word is a out right Lie.

You think this is a bad story? You should hear Hannity talk to one of the call center workers. It’s like we are the old USSR. Nothing this program works. She said the ssystem would be down FOR 42 HRS?! And it you don’t already have an account you can’t sign up for one, not even over the phone, until the system is working again, in 42 hrs.

More BS coming from the same administration that FALSIFIED millions of his Twitter followers.
This radical administration seems to have adopted a new mantra…It’s not what you have, it’s what you make the people THINK you have”.

They’re gonna pound this square peg into a round hole no matter how much the hammer costs.

But they’ve got all this information on who is and isn’t signed up, don’t they?  Maybe all they’re looking for is a way to gain an extra tax from people who “don’t have healthcare”, for now.  Who knows what they’ll do with the info later - it is being trusted to people off the street - some have warrants for their arrest, some have bankruptcies…...none are licensed insurance agents.  Who knows….

Earl P. Holt III

Oct. 22, 2013, 10:55 a.m.

Viewing all the humorous comments here, I’m reminded of Natan Sharansky’s description of the “black humor” that pervaded the Gulag’s “Refuseniks” during the Cold War…

This is the least of Obama’s lies.  He needs to be impeached!!!!

This is confirmation that the purpose of this site is to gather data on each of us and that’s why it was easy for Lizza to get through the initial phase.  They don’t want you to actually sign up.  Single payer is just around the corner if we don’t stop it in 2014.  We have the President for the next 3 years but we can change Congress in 2014!

This site is *not* broken. Your browser is racist.

Twitter.  Creating idiots, 140 characters at a time

Harold Hervey

Oct. 22, 2013, 11 a.m.

Those inititial tweets of “sucess” only confirms what most people already know: today’s “journalists” are soooo anxious to help and protect Obama that they could not even wait to reach final conclusion before tweeting how good the ACA site was. Too lazy to wait and too zealous to help Obama. Simple formula for disaster.

It is doing exactly what the Obama Administration wants it to do. It was never meant to be a success. It is meant to be an utter failure so that the Democrats can swoop in with their “Solution” to the problem being single-payer socialist medicine. The American people are lambs being led to slaughter and are too blind to know it.

Did you vote for Obama? Twice? Then congratulations, because you *did* build this!

My 22 year old daughter was born with Type 1 Diabetes inherited from my husband’s mother and grandmother, both of whom died from the disease.  My daughter was hospitalized 3 times before she was 18 for various complicationsr.  Neither of the 2 health insurers doing business in our part of Nevada wanted to insure her.  During that last hospital stay, my daughter caught “Hospital Acquired MRSA” which is an infection which never goes away and which can kill someone far quicker than Type 1 Diabetes.

My daughter has never worked a job which was reported to any credit reporting agency, never tried to borrow money from a commercial lender, and never obtained a mortgage loan.

As a result of her chronic illnesses, our whole family was thrilled at the thought of my daughter being able to obtain insurance through Obamacare. 

Unfortunately, she got a very nasty surprise when she tried to enroll.  She got on the Federal website without a problem.  She typed in her name, address, etc. and hit enter.  A screen came up which said “We cannot verify your identity.  Call Experian at xxxxxxxxxx and give them xxxxxxxx as a reference number.

So she called Experian while her dad and I were in the room.  She got through to a live human at Experian fairly quickly.  My daughter explained what happened and the woman at Experian said that the problem of Experian not having an “Identity Profile” for a young enrollee is not unusual because they have never borrowed money from a commercial lender.  The woman at Experian said that Experian is not in the position to create “Identity Profiles” and that those operating the Federal website needed to do a “Manual Process Identity Proofing”. 

So my daughter logged back into the Federal website and tried to find a place to click to get a “special” phone number to speak to someone who could do a “Manual Process Identity Proofing”.  She didn’t find any special phone number,  and instead was directed to telephone, which is the Nevada website for its residents who want to participate in Obamacare.

My daughter phoned and spoke to a very nice woman.  She said that Nevada does not do “Manual Process Identity Proofing” and that my daughter had to first prove her identity to the Federal Dept. of Health & Human Services.  She suggested that my daughter not even try to do the Manual Process Identity Proofing for at least 2 more weeks.

My daughter’s “identity” has been known to the Federal government, in the form of the IRS, for 18+ years as she has been a dependent listed on our tax returns.  She filed her own tax return for 2012 knowing that Obamacare was coming and that she would need to be “in their computer”.  My daughter is known to the State of Nevada because she has a Dept. of Motor Vehicles Identification Card, a Voter Registration Card to which both the Nevada Secretary of State and Clark County officials have computer database access.  And she has a Clark County Library card.

Yet according to the Dept. of Health & Human Services because Experian says she doesn’t exist, and there is no way right now to have a “Manual Process Identity Proof” of her existence.

The problem with Obamacare’s identity proofing requirement is not a computer programming program.  It’s a problem with the brains of the high level HHS employees who set up a system involving Experian while ignoring the fact that there are millions of young people who do not have credit histories with Experian and thus no “Identity Profile”, and the fact that there are millions of poor people under the age of 65 who also have no “Identity Profile” with Experian. 

Our family is very irritated and disturbed by the actions of the Federal employees who involved Experian in the Obamacare program.  Either they are profoundly naive about “how the country works” in terms of what credit reporting agencies do or do not know, or they are profoundly arrogant and want to put people who need Obamacare the most through a hellish experience in trying to enroll.

So Ryan Lizza’s story is misleading because he obviously exists in Experian’s records.  There are a whole lot of sick people who are not so lucky.

Like 10’s of millions of Americans, Obamacare is ruinous to me. My Aerospace company, like IBM and hundreds of other companies, has cancelled the health coverage plan they previously extended to retirees including early retirees, as of 1/1/4. The date is no co-incidence. Now I have to wait until 65 for a ‘defunded’ Medicare coverage, and in the interim, Obamacare is 590% higher cost than my previous plan, since an ‘affordable’ plan comes with an 8000 deductible.  So a handful of people benefit (like hard core druf users who had a pre existing condition needing a liver or kidney transplant), while the rest of us have our health care totally destroyed by the democrats and Obama.

as with all government operations the tax payer pays way over the value for what we get. this debacle cost just under 700 million dollars. twitter, facebook, google start up combined was less than half that difference all three worked on start up. what we have here folks is a campaign donation to a tech co that writes computer code made a huge profit for his or her donation!

Whatever the government does, is done poorly. This is a non-partisan bit of wisdom, that we all agree on: USPS, Amtrak, you name it—government-run enterprises are run poorly, bleed money, and need constant support (“bailing out”) from the tax-payers.

A sensible conclusion from this observation is that the government should be doing the least amount of things possible: uphold the law, guard the borders, issue passports.

To keep trying—instead of curbing the government’s reach, expand it—is the opposite of sensible…

And he decided he’d rather shut the government down than delay his pet project a year until it was ready.  Ego run amok.

I would think the moral of the story would be that journalists shouldn’t make themselves the subject of the story.  It’s understandable that journalists may want to verify whether the site is experiencing the issues they’re hearing about anecdotally, but they should be observers and not participants in the story.

What should also be a moral of this story is that tweeting via Twitter is not the same as, say, being on camera and covering an event happening live.  When a journalist is reporting live, it’s understood the story is unfolding, so there’s no expectation on the part of the viewer that what’s being reported at the beginning will be consistent with what’s being reported at the end.  When a journalist reports in print, and Twitter is a print medium, it’s assumed the story contains all the facts and that the beginning and end are consistent.  Each tweet is a story in and of itself.  In this case, Lizza “reported” (and I use the term loosely) before he had all the facts.  Unfortunately, that seems to be the new journalistic norm—that, or ignoring the facts altogether.

Dennis Schebig

Oct. 22, 2013, 11:20 a.m.

For $700 billion of the tax payers money it should have worked the very first time it was used. I wonder who’s palmed got greased and for how much.

Um, did you try a browser other than Chrome?

First, I’m 100% sure that all these other comments are totally legitimate readers and not just a herd being directed to discredit the (largely worthless, I might add) ACA.

Second, when people say “everybody should learn to code”?  This is why.  It has nothing to do with your aspiring career as a programmer or the weird future where everybody needs to write software to cross the street or tie their shoes.  When you’ve written software, you have a feel for when things go wrong, making it harder to dupe you.

Third, Міша, you do realize that the USPS is a private company required by their charter to not turn a profit, right?  And yet they still manage to get your letter to anyone in the country pretty quickly for under a dollar.  How does that compare with UPS or FedEx prices…?  They’ll both deliver an envelope from New York to California for the low, low price of (a hair under) twenty-nine bucks.  Compare that to the price of a stamp (forty-six cents), or try to compete with it…

Between california and Florida 460,000 self-insured Americans are having their policy cancelled because it does not meet the standards of the new Obamacare standards. Therefore 95 year old women have to carry prenatal care thought they will never use it. There are 14 million self-insured Americans and many of them will lose their current covereage because of Obama care. So this law does not just affect the so-called 47 million uninsured it affects 14 million self-insured and HHS plans that initially only 7 million Americans will sign up for Obama care. That means we may end up with more unisured after Obama care then before Obama care, which is the problem Obama care was made to fix.

This shows the level of desparation they have hit.  I am anxiously awaiting the first official statistics on how many people actually signed up.  They HAVE to know that number.  If there were lots of signups, they would be beating their chests.  How can they possibly spin this when they have to concede they are not making their numbers??

Listening to NPR this morning, and they’re floating the trial balloon that this whole SNAFU is the Republicans’ fault because they didn’t authorize enough money for proper development.

We’ll hear the same blame game from the politicians who have attached themselves to this train(wreck), most likely from the top down.

Ultimately, they have to own this.  Who really though the government could run a program as consumer sensitive as this?

As with any online situation , most web addresses don’t realise the numbers that are going to apply . Within the first couple of hours , they are going to be swamped by applications . The servers are not enough to contend with the situation .

I did some software work for a government agency (NCAU) years ago. Worst experience of my professional life. Requirements changed weekly and senior government IT workers seemed afraid if we succeeded, they would look bad, so success was never in the cards.

David Anfinrud

Oct. 22, 2013, 11:50 a.m.

That is why you need an independent group of testers testing something. When you test it by the developers they miss a few things like how it interacts when you add all the parts.  Developers only test the functionality of a small piece. They always forget to look at the whole picture.  So called End to End testing.

This White House has a bad habit of taking information that would further their story, spreading it as the truth, and then looking like fools when it is obvious their story doesn’t add up.  See Behngazi as another example.

John, It’s not that servers were overwhelmed; private e-commerce sites set up multiple servers across the cloud when anticipating a new roll-out, very simple stuff.  Anyone with a credit card can lease Amazon servers - as needed - for pennies an hour.
This is structurally broken, not something that calling in Verizon to ‘work out a few kinks’ is going to fix.

The web problems are only the first problem, one we all see.  Wait until younger buyers realize they’re being used to subsidize their parents and grandparents, (nevermind that they’re used to 1-click buying after easy comparison shopping); they’ll bail.  When they do, the whole economic foundation cracks.
This will not end well.  What a disaster.

I ask again, who is surprised?

Not meant to work from the start, only to bring Single Payer.

Lynda Dougherty

Oct. 22, 2013, 11:55 a.m.

Did the lady standing behind Obama during his speech on Monday almost faint because she was a.) holding her breath while she attempted to sign up for Obamacare b.) just found out how much her premium would sky rocket c.) just realized that Obama might not be God after all or d.) all of the above

Obamacare is the NSA spying program gone public. Notice how they are more concerned with gathering your personal info before letting you compare prices unlike most commercial web sites. Obamabots beware, when you “apply”, your criminal records, immigration status, sexual preferences/partners, salary etc are going to be checked. If you misstate anything you will be getting a bill in the mail in the future.

Todd Scarbrough

Oct. 22, 2013, 11:59 a.m.

Never thought I’d see link to you, Charles.

With 3 1/2 years to get it ready and 1/2 a billion dollars put into it, we got what the federal government does almost ALL the time. I am sure over 3/4 ths of the major programs cost much more than the positive it does for the country as a whole. Weather it was by the Repubs or Dems or bi-part.

Yes…..I want the government to control/dictate my healthcare choices. The same government that had two years to prepare for the launch and failed miserably.

This article is part of an ongoing investigation:
Obamacare and You

Obamacare and You

The Rollout of the Affordable Care Act has been marred by glitches and political opposition.

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