Two weeks after the heavily-publicized rollout, pretty much everyone can agree the websiteÂ HealthCare.govÂ is not working. But why is less clear.
If consumers were able to see prices, theyâ€™d be in the streets with their pitchforks
If you listen to the administrationâ€™s defenders in the media, theyâ€™ll mention missed deadlines, lack of proper project management, delayed regulations, and not enough budget.Â The New York Times in fact published this story featuring interviews with contractors, government officials, insurance executives and consumer advocates, all talking about the troubles. Short version: itâ€™s all because of Dilbert down in IT.
And Dilbert down in IT is having a bad time indeed. Two weeks after going live, the site is virtually inoperable. Users encounter errors when they try to price plans or find out what subsidies they may qualify for.
What was billed as a "one-stop click-and-go hub for citizens seeking health insurance" has confounded millions of people as they simply try to log in.
Even some supporters of the Affordable Care Act admit the technical problems have given huge political ammunition to opponents of the Affordable Care Act and underscore a lack of faith and trust in the governmentâ€™s ability to accomplish big things throughout the country.
complex regulations reward contractors who excel at winning bids but canâ€™t code
One insurance executive who was quoted, but not named, in the NYT article, says "these are not glitches,â€ť and calls the extent of the problems "pretty enormous."
Montreal, Canada-based CGI Federal was the prime contractor for the federal exchange website, but the question of just exactly how much American taxpayers shelled out for the development of the system's portal, plan management, and financial management pieces has generated a fair amount of discrepancy and speculation online.
The Government Accountability Office reported in June that CGI had received about $88 million for its services. The Washington Post reported the $88 million figure, while the NYT says it was $94 million.
However, a Digital Tech data review found that while CGI Federal was contracted to participate in the construction of Healthcare.gov for 97.3 million, the government actually paid the firm more than $634 million â€” more than the start-up costs of such private mainstays as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Whatever the price of the work, they got off to a slow start. The company was actually awarded its contract in December 2011, but the government was so slow in issuing specifications that the firm did not start writing software code until this spring. Not good.
According to the NYT piece, as late as the last week of September, officials were still changing features of the site, and debating such basics as whether consumers should be required to register and create password-protected accounts before they could shop for health plans.
Speaking of time, Obama Administration officials say they there is plenty of time to resolve the problems before the mid-December deadline to sign up for coverage that begins January 1 and the March 31 deadline for coverage that starts later.
However, that may not be enough time to fix what the bigger problem is, according to some, and that is the system for contracting out large enterprise projects such as HealthCare.gov is broken.
Of course, all this IT talk camouflages the main reason for the meltdown. If consumers were able to quickly set up an account and see the prices and limitations of the plans they are being forced to choose from, theyâ€™d be in the streets with their pitchforks out. Instead, website visitors are forced to wait while deep back-end processes handle transactions that transit through multiple platforms and multiple queueing systems.