Last week, CNN's Wolf Blitzer made waves when he opined that the ongoing problems with ObamaCare might be reason to delay the program.
"They had three years to get this ready," he said. "If they weren't fully ready, they should accept the advice Republicans are giving them, delay it for a year, get it ready and make sure it works.
Blitzer later said he was only referring to the ObamaCare exchange website. But as the rollout continues, there's increasing evidence that an across-the-board delay would make sense — even to supporters of the law.
Ongoing glitches, for example, could make it impossible for many to get mandated coverage starting in January. The administration's decision to delay parts of ObamaCare for a year has increased the risk of fraud and abuse in other parts. Data security protections and the "navigator" program don't appear fully ready, making privacy breaches and scams more likely.
Enrollment Glitches. The problems marring the first days of the federal ObamaCare exchanges have not abated much over the past two weeks, despite administration promises that they'd quickly be fixed.
People who showed up at a Pittsburgh enrollment rally late last week, for example, couldn't sign up for coverage on the federal exchange. The New York Times reports that one of its researchers hadn't been able to log in despite more than 40 tries. A CNN reporter spent nearly two weeks trying to sign up and "failed again, and again and again.
Some state-run exchanges also had serious glitches. Oregon delayed opening its site to consumers because of software problems. Vermont was issuing paper applications in the wake of bugs in its system.
Worse, insurance companies say they're getting garbled, useless, incorrect or duplicative information about many of those who did manage to make it through the enrollment process. In some cases, files were sent to the wrong insurers.
The Obama administration says it has plenty of time to make repairs, but industry officials say that if the problems aren't resolved soon, people who want to enroll for coverage starting in January may not be able to. "If the problems persist another three or four weeks, those at the back of the line will not have coverage," Dan Schuyler of Leavitt Partners told Politico.
Missing Pieces. Before the Affordable Care Act became law, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said all the pieces of the comprehensive reform had to be in place for it to work. "Pieces of the puzzle are necessarily tied together if you have a comprehensive approach," she said.
But the administration has since delayed several of those pieces, while leaving others intact. The most prominent was the one-year delay of the employer mandate — which requires firms with 50 or more full-time employees to provide health benefits or pay a fine.
The July decision came as more and more employers cut work hours or jobs to minimize ObamaCare costs. But the mandate was specifically included to discourage businesses from dumping their health costs on to the taxpayer subsidized ObamaCare exchanges. Companies were also supposed to file government reports on whether they provided "affordable" health plans. The Congressional Budget Office says that the mandate delay will add roughly $12 billion to ObamaCare's price tag.
And without those employer reports, the government will have little ability to verify whether an individual is eligible for taxpayer subsidies — which are supposed to be available only to those lacking access to "affordable" employer-provided plans.
Fraud Risk. In July, the administration issued a rule letting states off the hook for a year when it came to verifying information provided by applicants, because technology and reporting systems weren't in place yet. As a result, states "may accept the applicant's attestation" about eligibility and income next year.
Critics say this delay vastly increases the chance that ineligible people will get benefits, or will get more subsidies than they're due. ObamaCare backers claim the government eventually will catch such overpayments, particularly when people file their taxes. The government may be able to recoup excess premium subsidies, but not more-generous deductible and co-pay limits.
Privacy Problems. In August, the Health and Human Service's inspector general warned that security measures needed to protect the vast amounts of personal information flowing through the ObamaCare "data hub" were well behind schedule. The administration says the systems all passed security requirements.
But House Intelligence Committee head Mike Rogers noted last week that "the Obama administration has provided virtually no information regarding the real-time readiness for implementing the hub's security controls necessary to ensure that no data breach occurs.
And just before ObamaCare officially launched, the Minnesota exchange showed the vulnerability of such data when an employee accidentally sent the Social Security numbers and other confidential information of 2,400 insurance agents to a third party.
Unreliable Navigators. To help applicants figure out what coverage they could get and how to obtain it, ObamaCare will rely on an army of "navigators." However, in its rush to get these navigators hired in time, the administration required only minimal training and no background checks.
Last week, Florida's top navigator claimed that ObamaCare applicants had to provide credit scores to help insurers decide who to cover, something that anyone even vaguely familiar with the law would know is false. And the Daily Caller reported this week that a navigator in Kansas has an outstanding arrest warrant against her.
A September report on the navigator program by the House Oversight Committee said that, as currently constituted, it "substantially increases the number of Americans likely to fall prey to fraud and identity theft."