Administration lied about “anonymous shopper” feature

One element of Healthcare.gov actually was working in time, so of course the administration scrapped it:

When the troubled federal health care website came online, the key “Anonymous Shopper” function was nowhere to be found — even though it passed a key test almost two weeks before HealthCare.gov launched.

That successful test, noted in documents obtained by CNN and confirmed by a source close to the project, contradicts testimony from an Obama administration official overseeing HealthCare.gov, who told lawmakers earlier this month the function was scrapped because it “failed miserably” before the October 1 launch.

The “anonymous shopper” feature would have allowed people to look at health insurance rates without signing up for account and giving personal information. Had it been available, it would have lessened the load on Healthcare.gov, not enough to make the system work (the system folds under a few hundred users), but maybe enough to make it easier to fix.

According to CNN, the feature actually did work, but the administration struck it from the system, and lied about the reason why:

Chao said he made the decision in conjunction with colleagues and testified before Congress last week that it was because the feature “failed so miserably that we could not conscionably let people use it.”

Yet a CMS document made public by the same committee last week tells a different story. The agency and one of its subsidiaries, the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, was working with government contractors on the website. It determined the Anonymous Shopper feature “tested successfully,” revealed “no high severity defects open” and that “remaining lower severity defects will not degrade consumer experience.”

CMS raised questions about the “tested successfully” denotation for the feature in a statement. . . ‪The source close to the project, however, said the anonymous shopper function did pass testing conducted in the weeks ahead of the HealthCare.gov launch.

CNN doesn’t seem to know why the feature was scrapped, but we do. The Obama administration doesn’t want people to know the real price of their insurance; they only want people to see price with subsidies, and they can’t do that anonymously:

An HHS spokeswoman said the agency wanted to ensure that users were aware of their eligibility for subsidies that could help pay for coverage, before they started seeing the prices of policies.

So here we have yet another Obama administration official committing perjury. Chao knew perfectly well that the feature wasn’t scrapped for failure; his own words show that plainly:

The successful test occurred on September 17, according to a source familiar with the project. The next day, in an internal e-mail obtained by CNN, Chao wrote the shopper function “isn’t needed and thus should be removed.”

Fortunately for Chao, no Obama administration will ever be prosecuted for perjury while Obama is in office.

POSTSCRIPT: We should note, by the way, that Obama promised the system would have this feature:

“Just visit HealthCare.gov, and there you can compare insurance plans, side by side, the same way you’d shop for a plane ticket on Kayak or a TV on Amazon,” Obama said on October 1, the day the website went live. “You enter some basic information, you’ll be presented with a list of quality, affordable plans that are available in your area, with clear descriptions of what each plan covers, and what it will cost.”

Sure, it’s small potatoes next to his broken promises to let you keep your health insurance, and cut your premiums by $2500, but it’s still worth noting.

POST-POSTSCRIPT: The system does have a related feature now, but it’s crippleware. It takes too little information to give a good estimate and consequently underestimates premiums by as much as a factor of two. That’s presumably deliberate. CNN again:

The “Plan Preview” tool was added to the site October 10, amid criticism there was no window shopping feature. But it only includes two age categories for estimates — “49 or under” and “50 or older” — and has been criticized for providing wildly varied cost estimates.

“It’s not as good as Anonymous Shopper,” Karp told CNN. “It doesn’t provide the full experience of anonymous shopping that was recommended” in the prototype CMS encouraged state exchanges. . .

As far as the real thing, they have no plans to release it at all:

At the federal government’s order, the contractor responsible for it, CGI, is not even working to ready it, a source close to the project tells CNN. HHS would not provide an estimate of when the window shopping feature will be available.

(Previous post.) (Via Hot Air.)

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