Journalism in the Public Interest

Podcast: Why Is So Flawed?, the home of the federal insurance marketplace, has faced nothing but problems since it launched on Oct. 1. ProPublica’s Charlie Ornstein has chronicled the range of issues that have plagued the site, including duplicate enrollments and children reported as parents, as well as a wildly misleading price estimator tool.

How did we end up in this mess?

Ornstein joins ProPublica’s Editor-in-Chief Steve Engelberg on the podcast to discuss the many challenges has been up against since the Affordable Care Act was first passed in 2010; how, if the site’s glitches aren’t fixed soon, it could face a so-called “death spiral”; and the government’s decision to move forward with the site launch even though it knew there were problems:

“...the administration was out there loudly proclaiming, go to It’s open for business. Sign up for coverage. Lady Gaga tweeted it...but the infrastructure to get covered wasn’t working,” Ornstein says. “They were directing millions of people to a website that was completely incapable of handling the traffic.”

You can listen to this podcast on iTunes and Stitcher. And for more on, read Ornstein’s latest reports:

Richard Morris

Oct. 29, 2013, 2:36 p.m.

Dunno if it’s covered in the podcast or not, don’t have time to listen, but I sure would like to know what dim bulb decided that people would have to create an ‘account’ before they can window shop.  As hot as ACAA is, folks will not do anything that smacks of buying until they’re comfortable with the whole idea.  Only familiarity will allow them to get comfortable, so that twit decision-maker put a big roadblock between the public and something they need. 


Richard echoed my thoughts exactly. Why should I go through the trouble of signing up for what may be something I do not want in the first place?

Kevin McKenzie

Oct. 29, 2013, 5:01 p.m.

Hi.  Your RSS feed is not keeping in sync with your podcasts; the last one that shows up is “Aloha, Mike Webb”

All that personal info no matter how small is “marketable”........
that’s why the ACA site is set up that way…...
Linkage, linkage, linkage=$$$$$$$$$$$$$

Murray Pender

Oct. 29, 2013, 6:37 p.m.

When the Republican Congress shut down the government right before Affordable Care was to be introduced, could they have targeted the implementation of The hired contractors, laid off, would have needed that valuable time for testing before going online. The timing was very unusual to say the least.

My guess is that Again the Republicans headed by ,most likely,the Tea Partyers are making Obama look like an incapable black man.    All this mess that Obama is riding roughshod over ,is leftovers from the Bush administration.    Where Obama came up with universal health care for all americans,I do not know.    But I would guess that Obama did not just wake up one morning and spring this on the americans.  But one winner surely is the Big Pharma,big Medical industry.    So even if only parts of Obamacare are put into operation,BP/BM win.  Already rates have changed and already Americans are worried that the sky will fall if they do not have medical coverage and are acting accordingly.    The truth is that a simple fine or surcharge of ninety five dollars will be subtracted from any Federal Income Tax refund.  For those americans that don’t have a pot to piss in,which is Millions,there is no refund to tap into

First, I want to remind everybody, that these big-time glitches happen under the best of circumstances.  The difference is that, when it happens at Google, they extend the deadline, because it isn’t written into law.  Even if the administration knew exactly what was going to happen, they still would have been obligated to plow ahead, because extending the deadline would have taken far longer (and probably resulted in a few more shutdowns) than fixing the problem.

I say this as an opponent of ObamaCare, not to defend it.

Richard, I’ll go you one better:  Has anybody in the administration read through the Paperwork Reduction Act?  It’s an immensely stupid law that isolates many people in government from the people they claim to represent, but it’s been law since 1980 and it’s been pretty thoroughly broken, here, doubly so if Bert is right and that data gets used for any weird purpose.

Coulomb, this isn’t universal health care or any kind of care.  It’s a mandate that we all pay for health insurance.  It doesn’t say one word about your getting help.  It’s also not a new idea.  It was “HillaryCare” or some similar term, back in the ‘90s.  It was given to her as her issue, and was widely thought to be the end of her political career, the way it cratered.  (Which is partly to say, don’t discount Obama—if complete failure didn’t kill Hillary, success with a couple of delays isn’t going to do much to Obama.)

I’d be on-board for universal health care, by the way.  I wouldn’t like it, either, but it’s a huge improvement over the status quo and where I think the ACA is about to take us.  At least if we pay out of taxpayer money, only the doctors profit from a mandate, whereas the ACA throws our money at doctors and insurance companies, and the latter are literally useless.

Also, I don’t know if his race is all that interesting, but he’s done a very good job portraying himself as incompetent in the last year or so.  He was surprised that his Syrian “red line” comment during the campaign came back to haunt him and didn’t know how to handle it, eventually looking sheepish as the Russians saved the day.  He’s been trying unsuccessfully to walk the line between defending the NSA surveillance as necessary while claiming to not know (or care about?) the extent of it.  He looks bad because of the evidence, frankly, just like many other presidents before him.

Is this his fault, too?  I doubt it, he’s not a programmer and has never commissioned a large piece of software before, and very few people have.  But to say that he’s only being portrayed as inept because of racism is a lot like saying that Bush only looked bad because of liberal media bias.

A little history study will indicate that most of the crap being dumped on the ACA(there is no such thing as Obamacare except in Republican propaganda and lazy media)was pretty much the same as when Social Security was introduced.  Many if not most of the so called “glitches” came into play if not because of defects in the new law , then because of the avalanche of those wanting to be in on the game.
I won’t try to sell you on the mixed up administration of Mr Obama if you will simply deal with how to broaden medical care availability.  So far the GOP has only mounted attacks with no plan for what could be done more positively.  My teachers, parents and military bosses always warned me never to put down a plan or opinion if I had not positive alternative to offer instead.

“Gitches”?? How about something called MDW’s in Iraq and the trillions of bucks sent to fix the situation.

Darryl Phillips

Oct. 30, 2013, 7:11 p.m.

A different view….Why don’t a group of hackers go to work on fixing the ACA website? I’m serious, they can get into anything so they should be able to find the bugs and fix, or at least publicize the needed fixes.

It would be a win-win, hackers get to be the good guys and the ACA website works for the rest of us. If you know a hacker please pass this on to her/him/it/them.

The reporting on the failings of the website is exhausting. Mostly because mass media is following every second of the issue and will continue up until the system works. This is just like the anxiety that people experience between paychecks


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