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President Barack Obama during a Nov. 14 speech about his healthcare overhaul
Associated Press/Photo by Carolyn Kaster
President Barack Obama during a Nov. 14 speech about his healthcare overhaul

Pajama-gate joins Obamacare’s list of blunders

Healthcare | Gaffes and glitches have piled up since the Oct. 1 launch of HealthCare.gov

Since the launch of HealthCare.gov on Oct. 1, there has been a lot of public head shaking and jaw dropping. Here is an ongoing scrapbook of some of the most memorable moments of the Obamacare drama.

Christmas with Pajama Boy

An ad designed to promote Obamacare to young people has become the laughing stock of Twitter. Critics are mercilessly mocking “Pajama Boy,” a twentysomething in one-piece pajamas who is featured in an ad that reads “Wear pajamas. Drink hot chocolate. Talk about getting health insurance.” The ad debuted on the @BarackObama Twitter account on Dec. 17 with the question, “How do you plan to spend the cold days of December?” “Not looking like this,” @AlexandraCSmith tweeted back. It seems that the young people to whom the ad was targeted wouldn’t be caught dead in a flannel onesie. “Words are simply inadequate to describe the spiral galaxy sized [sic] suck of that tweet,” @MangyLover replied. The image went viral as users added their own satirical slogans to the ad and retweeted them. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey fired back with his own ad encouraging people to spend the holidays lending a helping hand, not sitting around in their PJs. “Get out of your pajamas, put on an apron, and get volunteering,” the ad read.

Red flags ignored

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The top cybersecurity expert at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) refused to support the launch of HealthCare.gov due to major security threats that continue to persist, according to an interview released by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Teresa Fryer, the chief information security officer at CMS, on Dec. 17 told the committee her team continues to find security issues that put user information at risk, directly contradicting Obama administration assurances. Fryer recommended against the site launch on Oct. 1 and refused to sign a document authorizing it. She told lawmakers two more security concerns were identified in November and December. On Nov. 6, Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, told Congress, “We discussed security as part of the overall operations on a regular basis with the operations team, but no one, I would say, suggested that the risks outweighed the importance of moving forward.”

Navigator errors

The Obamacare programs designed to help people understand and apply for insurance lack good management and create a breeding ground for fraud, according to a congressional report. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform issued a report Dec. 16 stating that the Department of Health and Human Services’ poor management of the Navigator and Assister programs “induces fraudulent behavior and posts real threats to the safety of consumers’ personally identifiable information.” The report cited news stories of navigators who misinformed applicants and encouraged them to lie about their incomes. It also stated navigators were not properly screened or trained prior to employment.

The $27,000 YouTube videos

Erin McDonald’s musical statement to fellow young people that it’s “not about the money, money, money,” earned her a nice chunk of change from an Obamacare-sponsored video contest. The Department of Health and Human Services announced Dec. 2 that McDonald had won the grand prize in the Healthy Young America video contest. The contest received “more than 100 videos” made to encourage young people to sign up for Obamacare. Having healthy young people in the insurance risk pools is essential to keeping premiums from skyrocketing. The administration dished out $27,000 in prize money across three categories for the contest. So far, none of the submitted videos appear to have gone viral.

‘We’re all Obama people’

In late November, a director with Enroll America, a nonprofit group dedicated to signing up people for Obamacare, resigned over a data privacy scandal. The nonprofit Project Veritas caught Chris Tarango, Texas communications director for Enroll America, on a hidden camera saying he would “do whatever it [expletive] takes” to get private information about potential Obamacare enrollees. Tarango also talked on camera about Enroll America’s partisan connections, saying, “We’re all Obama people.”

No se habla healthcare

Another area of Obamacare that has experienced repeated delays is the Spanish version of HealthCare.gov. The site currently provides basic information, but still doesn't allow users to apply for insurance coverage online. In late November, the administration said it planned a quiet launch of the Spanish enrollment tools in early December. But as of Dec. 5, online enrollment was not available. The site directs Spanish speakers to enroll on the phone. It also tells them to sign up by Dec. 23 for coverage that begins Jan. 1.

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