Quite possibly the most prominent news story obscured by the government ‘shutdown’ was the awful technological week for the new healthcare exchanges. The consequences of the early crashes, bugs, and errors that marred the first week of enrollment have grown into a full fledged tsunami of malfunction in week two.
First came the revelation that out of the 9.5 million visitors to healthcare.gov, just 36,000 were able to successfully navigate the sites difficulties and fully enroll. A success rate of less than one percent. This prompted Health and Human Services (HHS) to take down parts of the site for repairs.
The cause of these errors raised another series of unflattering answers. The website forces an individual to sign up and provide all sorts of information before allowing them to view their coverage options and prices. The website creators knew this would slow down operations on the site but insisted on it being done. “An HHS spokeswoman said the agency wanted to ensure that users were aware of their eligibility for subsidies that could help pay for coverage, before they started seeing the prices of policies.” Either HHS was attempting to hide the cost of coverage plans, or perhaps trying to push subsidies as quickly as possible.
Even more worrisome is a USA Today article citing tech experts that advocate for the site’s “total overhaul” because, “The federal health care exchange was built using 10-year-old technology that may require constant fixes and updates for the next six months and the eventual overhaul of the entire system. ”On top of the old technology, the site was reportedly not tested until a week prior to launch.
That begs the question of why industry experts were not brought in to aid HHS. The answer is the administration’s fear that “those companies could be subpoenaed by Hill Republicans”. A stark politically motivated move that would hurt the end users of the exchanges, who one might imagine are the point of Obamacare. Plus, the only IT firm that worked on the site has deep connections to the failed Canadian healthcare site in Ontario. All of this while the financial tab for the site has tripled. No wonder the site’s designer has wiped all reference of it from the company website.
This massive comedy of errors that has unfolded over the last two weeks was months in the making, and raises real concerns as to the viability of the government’s effort to direct the healthcare insurance market.