The federal health care exchange at Heathcare.gov has accidentally enrolled thousands of applicants in the government's sex offender registry, the latest of many technical failures to hit the troubled site.
According to several senior officials, since the exchange went live on Oct. 1 around 40,000 individuals looking to buy insurance have instead been listed on the National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW), a searchable database of rapists, molesters and others convicted of sex crimes.
The mix up was first discovered by people searching for sex offenders in their neighborhoods, only to find their own names. Administrators are uncertain how such an error occurred, but they note that both websites were built by the same contractor, CGI Federal.
In a statement, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius acknowledged the problem, but sought to assure the American public that it would be resolved eventually.
"Unfortunately due to a technical issue, a number of people applying for health insurance are now mistakenly listed in our national sex offender registry," the statement reads. "We deeply regret this error and hope to fix it as soon as possible.
"Due to the extreme volume of traffic this site is currently experiencing, however, it may be several months or years before we are able to erase these names from the list. Please accept our apology."
The Healthcare Exchange Marketplaces serve as the cornerstones of President Obama's Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare. By allowing consumers to easily compare health insurance plans, they hope to facilitate the vast expansion of coverage envisioned under the new law.
However, the roll out of the exchanges has been marked by persistent technical failures that have prevented millions from using them. Originally dismissed as "glitches" by the Obama administration, these problems now clearly represent profound design flaws in the system.
Today's revelations will no doubt escalate criticism of the exchanges in particular and the law in general, and may lead to dire political consequences for the president. Several of the individuals affected are understandably upset and angry with the Obama administration.
"I'm never voting Democrat again," says Pete Anderson, a welder from Dallas whose crime is listed as indecent exposure. "I tried to rent a new apartment today and was turned down because of the bogus charge in the registry. This never happened with Blue Cross. "
"The Republicans may be crazy," agrees Tamara Russell, a substitute kindergarten teacher from Eugene, Oregon. "But at least they don't publicly call you a necrophiliac on the Internet. This is so wrong."
Others were quick to use stronger language.
"This is bulls**t," proclaims freelance writer Dashiell Bennett. "I haven't had sex with a donkey in years. And even then, I never got caught. There's no way I should be on that list."
Victims of the this latest Obamacare mix-up have promised a class-action lawsuit against the government to compensate them for the emotional distress and reputational damage.