Since the beginning of this year, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius insisted that the ObamaCare exchanges would be ready next Tuesday, when they officially open their virtual doors to those wanting to buy insurance.
"We are determined and on track to meet the Oct. 1 deadline," she said back in April.
Given the incredible IT requirements involved in getting the exchanges ready, the bureaucratic delays, and the government's dubious track record in managing big technology projects, it always looked like a long shot.
And with the deadline just days away, IT problems appear to be mounting, leaving what Sebelius will count as being "ready" an open question.
The Obama administration has already admitted ObamaCare's myriad IT requirements were too much to handle.
Over the summer, for example, it put off a key feature of the small-business exchanges that was supposed to let workers choose from a variety of plans. That proved too complicated to finish in time. So for the next year, at least, small-business employees in the 36 states with federally run exchanges will have to take whatever plan their bosses pick.
The administration also had to delay rules regarding ObamaCare insurance surcharges started producing wildly incorrect information about benefits and costs. The site claimed, for example, that a Florida insurer was providing some medical services at no charge, without noting that the deductible had to be met first.
Data transfers not ready. Utah officials told the Salt Lake Tribune last week that an ObamaCare data transfer system won't be ready on time. Applicants who apply for ObamaCare coverage through a federally run exchange are supposed to be automatically routed to the appropriate state Medicaid offices if they qualify for that coverage.
"What we are hearing from (federal officials) is the functionality ... will not be ready by Oct. 1," Kevin Burt of the state's Department of Workforce Services told the paper. The result could be confusion and delay in benefits.
Data hub security not verified. Also last week, Government Executive reported that administration claims about the security of the data hub hadn't been independently verified by the HHS inspector general. That led Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., to complain to the Washington Free Beacon that "all we have are the statements that they're ready. It's all internal, and it's not checked by the inspector general or by anybody else.
Premium prices faulty. With just days to go before the federal exchanges are set to open, the computer system was still miscalculating the prices people would have to pay for ObamaCare plans, the Wall Street Journal reported.
States that decided to set up their own exchanges aren't having much more luck.
In early September, Brett Graham of Leavitt Partners told a congressional panel that "there is not a single state that is completely ready for open enrollment three weeks away" and that they were in for a "rocky enrollment period." Graham added there hasn't been enough testing of the state IT systems.
Nevada is trying to work out bugs in its exchange systems, with officials saying tests were behind schedule and that not all the functions will be ready Oct. 1. Among them is the ability to filter plans by cost or provider networks. The state has even postponed its ad campaign at least a month to minimize the number of people trying to sign up.
Oregon, which fully embraced ObamaCare, announced in August that it will delay the launch of its consumer-facing website for weeks, after problems showed up in its beta tests. Until then, consumers will have to use a broker or get help from a community group to apply for ObamaCare coverage.
The Washington, D.C., exchange said Wednesday that its computer system is suffering "a high error rate" in calculating tax credits for those buying coverage there. So D.C. applicants will have to wait until sometime in November to learn what they'll have to pay.
The Washington Post reported this week that the states' small-business exchanges won't all be ready for launch on Oct. 1.
Administration officials and ObamaCare backers dismiss the problems as little more than bumps in the road that they will eventually fix.
But the administration also expects 7 million people to apply for ObamaCare coverage in the exchanges in just six months. That will only put additional pressure on any technological weak spots, security holes and so on, potentially causing more confusion and disruption.