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Campaigns Find New Talking Point Against Obamacare after Shaky Open Payments Launch

by Debbie Sharnak, published

With the 2014 midterm elections less than a month away, Republican candidates around the country are continuing to use repealing Obamacare as a major reason why voters should support them and why the GOP needs to take full control over the Legislative Branch once again. From Georgia to Montana, opposition to the troubled health care law has been a core piece in many campaign platforms.

The troubles surrounding earlier this year only bolstered their claims. These campaign talking points, however, were weakened by high enrollment numbers, diminishing their impact on the election.

Now, a new report by ProPublica and the New York Times criticizing the government’s new Open Payments website has re-energized the narrative that the federal government has completely bungled its handling of Obamacare.

The purpose of Open Payments is to share the financial relationship between doctors, hospitals, and health care manufacturing companies including pharmaceutical companies. As a part of the Affordable Care Act, the goal of the online forum is to help the public better understand these relationships and how they might influence prescriptions and other medical decisions.

ProPublica, however, slams the website for “not coming anywhere near fulfilling” these objectives.

In the report by Charles Ornstein, a health care reporter, he explains that the website is incredibly confusing, noting that users found it almost impossible to search. Ornstein slams the lack of usability, including search bars being difficult to find, unfriendly data dictionary and methodology documents, and missing names because the information is incomplete.

The same contractor that created, CGI Federal, also created the Open Payments website.

On Twitter, various commentators noted how difficult the website was to use:

The dictionary to guide use of the #sunshineact open payments database is 51 pages long. Not user-friendly — Julia Belluz (@juliaoftoronto) September 30, 2014
As expected, #OpenPayments database looks pretty complex. But CMS promises "more simplified website" for consumers in “very near term" — JeffOverley (@JeffOverley) September 30, 2014
Incorrect data causes feds to temporarily shut down #OpenPayments system created by #SunshineAct — Medscape Orthopedics (@MedscapeOrtho) August 11, 2014

In addition, the Wall Street Journal has reported major errors within the system already.

Many doctors and medical education companies both object to part of the Open Payments system and claim that the website will breed distrust.

Less than a month before the elections, these complaints are extending beyond the medical field. With yet another government website rollout on health care bungled, the problems only serve to revive Republican objections to Obamacare.

Photo Credit: Evlakhov Valeriy /

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