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Software Bug Democrats

Obamacare Software Glitch Will Limit Penalties Charged To Smokers 490

Posted by Soulskill
from the software-engineers-1,-democracy-0 dept.
turbosaab writes "The Obama administration has quietly notified insurers that a computer system glitch will limit penalties that companies may charge smokers under the new healthcare law. The underlying reason for the limitation is another provision in the health care law that says insurers can't charge older customers more than three times what they charge the youngest adults in the pool. The government's computer system has been unable to accommodate the two. So younger smokers and older smokers must be charged the same penalty, or the system will kick it out. A fix will take at least a year to put in place."
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Obamacare Software Glitch Will Limit Penalties Charged To Smokers

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  • but this is just lack of effort.

    • I feel bad for the programmers...I mean...how junior do they have to be? :)
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by h4rr4r (612664)

        This is what you get with lowest bidder solutions.

        Sometimes bringing stuff in house is better.

        • by intermodal (534361) on Tuesday July 09, 2013 @02:00PM (#44228827) Homepage Journal

          Sometimes, but given who "in house" would be in this case, they might be better off with a group of enthusiastic 13-year-olds.

        • Are we talking about the programmers or the government? Both seem to be the "lowest bidders" here...

        • When it comes to computer programmers, hiring the more experienced ones usually ends up being less expensive because they finish in less hours and the final product has lower upkeep and maintenance costs and fewer bugs that take 1 year to fix.

        • by cayenne8 (626475) on Tuesday July 09, 2013 @02:56PM (#44229691) Homepage Journal
          Hmm...what stands out to me, that I didn't know was, that the obamacare laws specifically target one bad health activity for extra $$$?

          I'd not heard about the new smoking thing, forcing smokers to pay an extra penalty.

          Why was smoking specifically targeted? Hell, with the ongoing climb in obesity, the increasing incidents of type II diabetes and related complications will soon FAR outweigh problems we have with smokers.

          Are we going to penalize (by monetary means) those that have the wrong BMI (not a good scale I know, since it looks really bad for those that are super fit)?

          Are we going to tie the IRS and healthcare into the grocery store customer tracking system to see you're buying fattening, high calorie low nutrient foods?

          Will they trace how much booze, beer and wine you buy at the grocery store (or wherever you buy it in your state)?

          Where do we stop having the govt STOP trying to tell you how to live, and fining you for your CHOICE in lifestyle?

          I guess maybe it is easy to pick on the smokers first, but seriously, what about when they start also charging for more common behaviors that are really driving up health costs for the future? How will that go over?

          Is this really something the government should be doing at all? Doesn't sound like freedom to me, if the govt is trying to drive human behavior with govt. enforced sanctions.

          • by lgw (121541) on Tuesday July 09, 2013 @03:06PM (#44229821) Journal

            Why was smoking specifically targeted? Hell, with the ongoing climb in obesity, the increasing incidents of type II diabetes and related complications will soon FAR outweigh problems we have with smokers.

            It's all political BS. Lifetime healthcare costs for smokers are similar to non-smokers. Smokers tend to die younger, and lung cancer is an average-cost way to die.

            As soon as a government tries to reduce costs for healthcare, it will start passing all sorts of intrusive laws using that justification. I can't stand that sort of totalitarianism for any reason, but totalitarianism to save money is particularly vile.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by h4rr4r (612664)

            Actually this is the government limiting what the insurance companies can do. They are the ones who want to charge smokers more.

            The rest of your comment is conspiracy level nuttery.

            • Problem is, government is forcing business decisions, which in turn forces behavior.

              Not seeing any part of the Constitution where this is anywhere near okay to do.

          • by CrashNBrn (1143981) on Tuesday July 09, 2013 @03:16PM (#44229955)
            Obama has been targetting smokers since the beginning. He is an "ex"-smoker, you see so everyone should quit.

            When I moved to the states a few years back now, I smoked Djarum. Two months before I moved, Obama + Phillip Morris (Marlboro I believe) Lobbied to ban "flavoured" cigarettes, well except for menthol. The legislation isn't supposed to make sense, it's just supposed to make money.

            Phillip Morris with Obama's assistance got all flavoured cigarettes banned in the states. Then Phillip Morris after basically killing the market for many companies in the states (Clove cigarettes, etc) began selling "clove" Marlboro's to indonesia and other Indo-European countries.

            Not that Canada is all that much better, they tax cigarettes about 200%. But at least you can still buy them if you feel like it.


            Now if you've seen Djarum or other "flavoured" brands in the last 3+ years. They got around the ban by renaming them "Cigarello's" using cigar paper (thicker) and increasing the diameter by about an 1/8 of an inch or so.
        • by Dishevel (1105119) on Tuesday July 09, 2013 @03:10PM (#44229893)

          To be fair though it could be the law itself that is the problem.
          The law may be in conflict with itself. The code just shows it.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It sounds like the problem is being blamed on the code, when really the problem is the rules they set up.

        They likely set up the rules this way specifically to prevent penalty stacking, and even more specifically age dependant penalties.

      • This doesn't sound like a programmer issue but faulty by design.

    • Been trying to warn folks for years that the smokers were the canaries in the coal mine but nobody listened. Look at your history folks, government ALWAYS gets bigger, NEVER smaller. Look at places like NYC telling you how big of a soda you are allowed to have and talks of sugar taxes and fat taxes, all under the "its because of healthcare" bullshit excuse.

      This is one of the most wasteful governments in world history folks, we are paying for illegals, we are paying billions to third world thugs to benefit this or that big business, paying paying Uber Millionaires like David Letterman not to grow crops on the acres he bought as a tax writeoff, hell we recently got to pay close to 3 million dollars for EPA to fix a simple malware infection WITH A SHOTGUN...look it up, I'm NOT shitting you, their answer to a simple malware infection was to pay nearly a million to a "consulting" firm and when the consulting firm couldn't wave a magic wand and give them a guarantee that they could make the PCs 100% clean without a wipe they took a sledge to the PCs, the printers, even the fucking monitors...your tax dollars at work folks.

      So you better start standing the fuck up for the smokers, because just as they use the "terrorist" and "pedo" magic words to pass laws they end up using to Big bro your ass so too are they using smokers to pass laws they will later use to tell you how many slices of pizza you are allowed to have or they'll tax the fuck out of you, because of "healthcare" of course. Remember the rule folks, ALWAYS bigger,NEVER smaller.

      • by flink (18449) on Tuesday July 09, 2013 @02:55PM (#44229669)

        Been trying to warn folks for years that the smokers were the canaries in the coal mine but nobody listened. Look at your history folks, government ALWAYS gets bigger, NEVER smaller. Look at places like NYC telling you how big of a soda you are allowed to have and talks of sugar taxes and fat taxes, all under the "its because of healthcare" bullshit excuse.

        This isn't unique to the government. When I was at my previous fortune-100 employer, they penalized smokers as well (actually what they did was raise the rates for everyone, but gave non-smokers a "discount"). It's not that uncommon. Additionally some places will hand out "fitness incentives" (i.e. penalize overweight people).

      • by Latent Heat (558884) on Tuesday July 09, 2013 @03:57PM (#44230489)
        I am not a smoker and have no intention of taking it up. As a child, my dad smoked a lot, and I found the smoke seriously unpleasant. That people cannot smoke in public buildings is such a blessing.

        But why are we choosing to charge smokers more? I thought smoking was an addiction and we are supposed to offer health care regardless of pre-existing condition?

        Are we going to charge single women or "slutty" women more for reproductive health care because, like, they shouldn't be "doing it"?

        Are we going to charge fat persons more?

        Are we going to charge people more if they admit to other drug dependencies?

        Are we going to charge gay men more unless they can prove they are monogamous? Straight men more unless they can prove they are not "cheating"?

        And how do we enforce this? If we catch you smoking and we cancel your health insurance? Put you in jail?

        What about an occasional cigar smoker or someone who takes a drag when "a joint is passed around"?

        Are the authorities going to stick a OBD-II dongle in your car to make sure you aren't driving too fast?

        What about drinking and binge drinking? Are you going to get a rate break for abstaining, and does your rate go up if someone spots you taking a sip of champaign at a wedding?

  • A year? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MAXOMENOS (9802) <maxomai.gmail@com> on Tuesday July 09, 2013 @01:57PM (#44228783) Homepage

    I'm hoping that this is because there's too many other things in the pipeline that are more critical to get done first, and not because, say, the system is so badly written that this one relatively minor looking task will take a year.....

    If it's the latter, then I'm in the wrong business.

    • Re:A year? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Shados (741919) on Tuesday July 09, 2013 @02:00PM (#44228841)

      Translating the US tax code into software is probably a task rivaling some of the most complex software problems out there...and no one in their right mind will take that job if they can go elsewhere...

      So you have a ridiculously complicated problem, worked on by several rejects (I'm not saying all of them are rejects, but probably a non-trivial amount. I'm sure SOME good devs actually work there willingly....).

      The result must be an insane mess of crappy code...

      • by shentino (1139071)

        Indeed, the problem is that the tax code is too complicated.

        I'm fine with job security for accountants and lawyers, except for the fact that a complicated tax code makes things *harder* for everyone else.

        The key part of pareto optimizations is you don't screw over anyone else in the process.

      • Re:A year? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by PapayaSF (721268) on Tuesday July 09, 2013 @02:25PM (#44229205) Journal

        Translating the US tax code into software is probably a task rivaling some of the most complex software problems out there...

        Absolutely. This is just one of the early signs of the train wreck that is Obamacare. You just can't have a bunch of different Congressional staffers write different parts of a gigantic, complex bill involving a huge part of the economy, cram it through Congress along party lines, and expect the thing to work. They've already had to kill three sections of it, and delay the employer mandate. [spectator.org]

        Far, far simpler government IT projects (internal systems for single departments, e.g. the FBI's Virtual Case File) have failed miserably. Obamacare requires a public-facing system that connects to many other systems at the federal and state level, and complies with HIPAA requirements. I'm no expert on huge IT projects, but I don't see how this is going to be up and running in October, if ever.

        • P.S. (Score:4, Interesting)

          by PapayaSF (721268) on Tuesday July 09, 2013 @02:42PM (#44229473) Journal

          Here's a chart showing how the exchanges are supposed to work. [scribd.com] Just a system in which the public looks at different health plans from different providers would be complex enough, but note the links to the IRS, Treasury, Social Security, HHS, Homeland Security, and state Medicaid systems. This thing must be giving nightmares to even top IT pros.

        • by Tablizer (95088) on Tuesday July 09, 2013 @02:43PM (#44229493) Journal

          This is just one of the early signs of the train wreck that is Obamacare.

          Medicare, which begin in 1965, is roughly the same in complexity, and we survived it. The difference may be that Congress was willing to make adjustments back then, whereas now we have a polarized crew in DC and heading businesses.

    • by Trepidity (597)

      Welcome to Enterprise IT.

  • should of been more on the lines of other systems.

    At least the 30 hour rule fixes B.S like having an 39.5 hour work week with no benefits.

    also helps contractors and temps get real plans as well killing off the joke care mini med plans.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 09, 2013 @02:02PM (#44228871)

    So Slashdotters object to government collecting their metadata, but sticking its nose into every health decision is A-OK?

    ObamaCare has 100x the potential for abuse the NSA does.

    Even apart from socialized medicine starving people to death [dailymail.co.uk].

  • easier to jack up the pre pack tax then to bill each user on there tax forums.

  • by John Jorsett (171560) on Tuesday July 09, 2013 @02:07PM (#44228937)

    With each new story on this or that problem with implementing some part of the Affordable Care Act, and given how the various parts of it interlocked to keep it from breaking down, I just get the impression that there's going to be chaos when it really gets going. Assuming that it's allowed to. At some point maybe everyone agrees that it's not implementable in its present form, like one of those gigantic software projects that crashes to the ground because it was ill-conceived to begin with and nobody can figure out how to make it work.

  • Obama, software glitches, and smoking.

    It's like the holy trilogy of contentious Slashdot topics.

    All we need now is to tie this into movie or music piracy somehow, and maybe sprinkle in some Scientology for good measure.

    BRB, making popcorn.
  • it's a feature
    • I agree on this. Why have low penalties on young smokers and really high ones on older ones? To not give them any reason to quit when young and get really hooked and then throw in the high penalties?

      Do what insurance is supposed to do - spread the risk and costs for the behavior so people who choose to do it when they are young are already helping to pay for the costs of their behavior when they get older. The costs they incur when they get old aren't solely cause by the smoking done when they are old.

  • The government not comping with its own laws for technical reasons or otherwise is unacceptable.

    I hope someone in a position to file a suit for not being able to setup the benefits as desired and legal way under the law will sue.

     

  • by johanw (1001493) on Tuesday July 09, 2013 @02:46PM (#44229535)

    I knew the health care system in the US was ridiculously expensive but that this is allowed... Even in the new healthcare system proposed by the neoliberal party in the Netherlands insurance companies have to offer the same price for the basic insurance for everybody. Taxing some more than others would cause uproar. Some are suggesting to let smokers pay more but the usual response that in that case it would also be fair to let them pay less for their retirement pension usually cuts that off.

  • by srobert (4099) on Tuesday July 09, 2013 @02:56PM (#44229675)

    ... we should have what this guy's advocating:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpAyan1fXCE [youtube.com]
    Who the hell was that guy? Why didn't we elect him?

  • Doomed to fail (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mathimus1863 (1120437) on Tuesday July 09, 2013 @03:10PM (#44229891)
    The problem is not Obamacare. The problem is the disgusting, predatorial healthcare system in the US. The problem is that the US doesn't follow every other developed country in the world and treats healthcare as a privilege instead of a right. As such, the monopolies that run the healthcare system exploit the lack of competitive pressure since people in the hospital frequently can't "shop around" for better & cheaper service. This leads to the practice of charging patients literally 10x to 100x what things actually cost.

    The fact that the US even has to deal with such an unethical, predatorial system to begin with--instead of just offering universal healthcare--is what failed, not Obamacare itself. In fact, even though Obamacare itself is flawed, I'm hoping that at least the constitutionally-validated mandate will eventually lead to the US offering universal healthcare, since the current system is unsustainable and people are now required to have coverage. No matter how bad Obamacare is, I think it's still a step forward. Consider if it hadn't been implemented... then in 5 more years we'd be right back to town hall meetings with constiuents (and Sarah Palin) screaming about death panels, etc. At least there's a chance to get to universal health care from Obamacare: the mandate is a good excuse to have a government option at least.

    Obamacare is bound to go poorly because the US healthcare system is shit. There's nothing Obamacare could do to be "good". We just need to fix our system.
    • Competition (Score:4, Insightful)

      by McFly777 (23881) on Tuesday July 09, 2013 @03:51PM (#44230415) Homepage

      The problem is not Obamacare. The problem is the disgusting, predatorial healthcare system in the US. The problem is that the US doesn't follow every other developed country in the world and treats healthcare as a privilege instead of a right. As such, the monopolies that run the healthcare system exploit the lack of competitive pressure since people in the hospital frequently can't "shop around" for better & cheaper service. This leads to the practice of charging patients literally 10x to 100x what things actually cost.

      I think you are slightly confused. You have it right when you are talking about the lack of competitive pressure increasing prices, but the solution is not to remove even more competitive pressure by switching to one plan to rule them all, which is essentially what Obamacare does. (You can have "competiting" plans, but they have to be the same, or you get hit for having a "cadillac plan".) The solution is to restore competitive pressure by implementing things like healthcare spending accounts (HSA) etc. which would place the consumer in the drivers seat for their own care. "... but doctor, is there a less expensive med that I can take?" (or test, or proceedure, etc.)

      But this is where others start complaining that this leaves out the poor, etc. since they can't afford to contribute to a HSA. (I am afraid I don't have a good answer, except to say that Obamacare isn't shaping up to fix this issue either.)

      Don't forget, there are people in Canada who come to the US to use our "shit" system, because they can't get care in a reasonable time-frame in their socialized healthcare system. It is well and good to have a "right" to healthcare, but if you have to wait in line for a year to treat something that is going to kill you in six months without treatment, it doesn't do you any good.

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