Health Exchanges Say Obamacare Data Hub Has Been Fixed

Exchange Websites As Parties In Hearing Trade Blame Over Obamacare Sign-Up Missteps
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
(UPDATED)
By Caroline Humer and Sharon Begley


A key link to federal data used by the websites that sell health insurance under the U.S. health reform law appeared to be working again after a data center failure blocked enrollment across the country on Sunday, two state-based exchanges said on Monday. The crash of the data center, operated by Verizon Communication's (VZ) Terremark unit, affected not only the federal government's online exchange, HealthCare.gov, but also the sites run by 14 states and the District of Columbia, the Department of Health and Human Services said on Sunday.

It was the latest problem in the troubled Internet rollout of the health insurance exchanges set up by the 2010 Affordable Care Act, which has President Barack Obama's administration scrambling to fix the technical issues that plague the system.

Representatives of the Connecticut-based and New York-based exchanges said on Monday that the federal data hub was working again. That hub is used by all of the states and the government to complete exchange applications.

Verizon and HHS, which oversees the exchanges, did not respond to requests for comment. Connecticut's site was the first to report the outage on Sunday.

The federal website, which sells insurance for the 36 states that chose not to operate their own Obamacare exchange, has been plagued by technology failures since it was launched on October 1. On Friday, the government said it would be operating smoothly by the end of November.

The outage that started early Sunday severed connections with the federal data services hub, which links the online health insurance marketplaces with numerous federal agencies and can verify people's identity, citizenship, income, and other information.

Without the hub, consumers are unable to apply online for coverage or determine their eligibility for federal subsidies to help pay for insurance premiums. The hub was built by a technology unit of UnitedHealth Group (UNH).

(Earlier reporting on the data hub outage story can be found below.)

By David Morgan and Sharon Begley


A data center critical for allowing uninsured Americans to buy health coverage under President Barack Obama's healthcare law went down on Sunday, halting online enrollment for all 50 states in the latest problem to hit the program's troubled rollout.

The data center operated by Verizon's (VZ) Terremark experienced a connectivity issue that caused it to shut down, affecting the federal government's already problem-plagued online marketplace Healthcare.gov and similar sites operated by 14 states and the District of Columbia, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Obama administration and company officials could not say how long it would take to fix the connectivity problem.

Separate technical problems that have stalled enrollment on Healthcare.gov since its launch on Oct. 1 are at the heart of a new Republican effort to discredit the healthcare law, also known as Obamacare, largely through congressional investigations to determine what went wrong in building the costly and complicated implementation system.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is due to testify later this week before a House of Representatives committee, while government contractors work around the clock to improve the Healthcare.gov website.

The outage that started in the early hours of Sunday caused the data center to lose network connectivity with the federal government's data services hub, an electronic traffic roundabout that links the online health insurance marketplaces with numerous federal agencies and can verify people's identity, citizenship, and other facts.

Without the hub, consumers are unable to apply online for coverage or determine their eligibility for federal subsidies to help pay for insurance premiums. On Saturday, Sebelius praised the hub's ability to perform complex calculations in quick time as an example of a successful segment of the system.

HHS spokeswoman Joanne Peters said Sebelius spoke with Verizon's chief executive officer on Sunday afternoon to discuss the situation: "They committed to fixing the problem as soon as possible."

The outage was affecting enrollment in all 50 states, as well as Terremark customers not connected with the marketplaces, according to the HHS spokeswoman. She said the data center's network connectivity went down during planned maintenance to replace a failed networking component.

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.

The administration has expressed confidence it can fix underlying problems with Healthcare.gov by early December, in time for people to meet a Dec. 15 deadline to enroll in new health plans to receive benefits on Jan. 1. Further delays would jeopardize its ability to enroll as many as 7 million Americans for coverage during Obamacare's first year.

Sebelius, who faces Republican calls for her resignation, will be grilled about her role in the Obamacare rollout on Wednesday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Contractors have already blamed the administration for not conducting enough vital system-wide testing and for a last-minute design change requiring online visitors to set up accounts before window-shopping for insurance. The change is widely blamed for creating early bottlenecks as millions of people flooded the website.

Health officials in Connecticut, one of the 14 states that constructed their own marketplaces, were the first to report 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 Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the HHS agency responsible for the federal system, 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.

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149 Comments

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betty_brock

If Obama says it's fixed, it must be fixed.........LOL HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

October 29 2013 at 4:16 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
coochiescoooter

No response from badsomey. Well, you're still invited to gator country to learn how to fish and hunt. Let me know.

October 28 2013 at 8:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to coochiescoooter's comment
dumbsomey

Come on up here and I'll teach you how to chill in the basement, collect welfare, eat Hot Pockets, and vote on others posts on internet message boards. Let me know.

October 28 2013 at 9:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
4 replies to dumbsomey's comment
coochiescoooter

I even have solar panels on top of my camper that charge batteries, I can live in the woods with all the comforts of home for a long time. Maybe if you decide to work for a living Somer you too can have some nice stuff too. Hunt and fish in the country and live the simple life, instead of being cooped up in some city dwellers basement. Fresh air will blow most of the stink off your behind too.

October 28 2013 at 7:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to coochiescoooter's comment
coochiescoooter

What do you think Somer , Y'all still want to call me a dumb redneck ?

October 28 2013 at 7:44 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to coochiescoooter's comment
coochiescoooter

You need to get a job and learn survival skills

October 28 2013 at 8:11 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down
coochiescoooter

That Somer feller loves to make fun of rednecks and the Koch brothers, but the fact is the Koch brother employ more people than Obama can, and rednecks know how to survive.

October 28 2013 at 7:29 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
willypfistergash

I wonder when somey is going to learn English?

October 28 2013 at 6:41 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to willypfistergash's comment
dumbsomey

For the last 6 years of 1st grade, they keep telling me English is for 2nd graders.

October 28 2013 at 6:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dumbsomey's comment
dumbsomey

What really terrifies me is 3rd grade. I've heard that includes math.

I suppose I shouldn't concern myself with something that may never happen anyway, but just the thought is almost as horrific as those nightmares of George Bush hiding under my bed.

October 28 2013 at 6:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down
coochiescoooter

He doesn't even want to learn how to hunt and fish.

October 28 2013 at 7:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
4 replies to coochiescoooter's comment
coochiescoooter

The health exchanges are messed up. I'm self employed and the plans I chose years ago have been working well for me, I have that Aflac with BC and BS. I checked on the new Obama care plans and the rates are higher than what I'm paying right now for coverage,even with a slight increase in my premiums. Get some additional insurance like Aflac or Transmark, they will make the difference up in supplement, as they pay for wellness check ups and such. People without insurance are at the mercy of the federal government. The rates are affordable at the bottom if you can hack the the 10k deductible. That's not saving anyone any money.
All Obama care did was help the government profit instead, by limiting services.

October 28 2013 at 6:02 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
coochiescoooter

I have family that works for Koch industries and they are all union companies here in the south. They don't need Obama care. That Somer feller, hasn't a clue how all us rednecks live, but like to make fun of us all. I feel sorry for the dude, he's stuck hating on rednecks and such. I just think he has too much time on his hands, he needs to take up fishing er something. I invited him down to gator country a few times to show him the ropes, but he's seems happy living in Yankee territory. Y'all don't know what your missing Somer.

October 28 2013 at 5:47 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
nfischet

wonder who will have access to your sensitive medical,and financial records?

October 28 2013 at 4:07 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to nfischet's comment
sales5ralls

One things for sure obama doesn't know. He knows nothing about nothing.

October 28 2013 at 4:10 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to sales5ralls's comment
willypfistergash

"I found out about it when I saw it on the news"

October 28 2013 at 4:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down
sales5ralls

Bad somey, really, you ask "Just what do you know?' I know that you are without a doubt a huge idiot.

October 28 2013 at 4:47 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down
willypfistergash

It's fixed alright. It fixed us real good.

October 28 2013 at 3:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
MZymr

Something doesn't seem right here. A site is working and all of a sudden it's not. is it possible someone has hacked the site and is causing this deliberately. Then blame it on Obama or Sebellius. But they didn't set up the site. This should be investigated by the proper officials if it is so.

October 28 2013 at 3:07 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to MZymr's comment
dumbsomey

I'm pretty sure Bush did it.

October 28 2013 at 3:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply