NYT: ObamaCare website only the tip of the iceberg of disaster

posted at 8:01 am on October 21, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

We’ve had plenty of evidence that the Healthcare.gov website issues go well beyond coding problems on the front end, where Americans create accounts before gaining access to the actual insurance-plan marketplace.  The New York Times reports today that the marketplaces themselves are just as buggy — and that it might take weeks or months to get all the issues fixed:

Federal contractors have identified most of the main problems crippling President Obama’s online health insurance marketplace, but the administration has been slow to issue orders for fixing those flaws, and some contractors worry that the system may be weeks away from operating smoothly, people close to the project say.

Administration officials approached the contractors last week to see if they could perform the necessary repairs and reboot the system by Nov. 1. However, that goal struck many contractors as unrealistic, at least for major components of the system. Some specialists working on the project said the online system required such extensive repairs that it might not operate smoothly until after the Dec. 15 deadline for people to sign up for coverage starting in January, although that view is not universally shared.

The scope of the problem is massive:

In interviews, experts said the technological problems of the site went far beyond the roadblocks to creating accounts that continue to prevent legions of users from even registering. Indeed, several said, the login problems, though vexing to consumers, may be the easiest to solve. One specialist said that as many as five million lines of software code may need to be rewritten before the Web site runs properly.

“The account creation and registration problems are masking the problems that will happen later,” said one person involved in the repair effort.

CMS, the agency at HHS responsible for the ObamaCare exchanges, is dragging its feet on change orders necessary to start correcting the front-end issues.  That  may be in part because the entire system is suspect.  As other news organizations have already reported, the NYT confirms that the system passes bad data to the insurers, which means even those few people who have managed to buy insurance through the system may actually still be uninsured and not know it.

The Times makes the “complexity” argument:

One major problem slowing repairs, people close to the program say, is that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency in charge of the exchange, is responsible for making sure that the separately designed databases and pieces of software from 55 contractors work together. It is not common for a federal agency to assume that role, and numerous people involved in the project said the agency did not have the expertise to do the job and did not fully understand what it entailed.

We’ve argues all along that the government doesn’t have the expertise for this job — which is why ObamaCare would be such a disaster. But the complexity argument is nonsense.  NASA managed to coordinate hundreds of contractors on space exploration, and completed the Mercury project and moved into the Gemini project in the same period of time CMS and HHS have had to launch a website.

Barack Obama will give a Rose Garden speech today that promises a “tech surge” to solve the problems:

The Obama administration has promised a “tech surge” to tackle the myriad technical issues that have plagued HealthCare.gov, acknowledging that the online health insurance marketplace “has not lived up to the expectations of the American people.”

“Our team is bringing in some of the best and brightest from both inside and outside government to scrub in with the team and help improve healthcare.gov,” the administration said in a 600-word post that was published Sunday on the Web site of the US Department of Health and Human Services. “We’re also putting in place tools and processes to aggressively monitor and identify parts of healthcare.gov where individuals are encountering errors or having difficulty using the site.”

Business Insider’s Joe Weisenthal is skeptical about that idea:

It’s doubtful that code patches will solve the problem, and the White House can’t afford a do-over at this point, which might take another three years.  And even when they do get the site fixed, the escalation in prices, deductibles, and co-pays still await Americans consumers.  It’s difficult to see how this could be any more of a train wreck.


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It’s difficult to see how this could be any more of a train wreck.

The President is continuing to drone on and on in the Rose Garden dog and pony spinfest that has the President piling on lie after lie, misrepresentation after misrepresentation, and misdirection after misdirection in an effort to climb out of the hole this EpicClusterFarkNado. It’s like he’s trying to pitch the ShamWoW!

(Maybe that’s the guy he needs to stand in front of the human props du jour and make the sales pitch. Vince probably has more credibility?)

It’s pretty clear that he is ignoring the first rule of hole digging, and in fact, ignoring that the ACA train wreck is a train wreck on so many levels.

Tossing more inside the beltway consulting companies into fixing this isn’t going to work anytime soon – as these consulting companies are turning out to be a large part of the problem. What’s needed is a private sector mindset – not more public sector / academia (devoid of reality) band-aids.

It’s going to be interesting to see the level of panic that will be in the WH when not much has really changed in another 3 weeks.

Athos on October 21, 2013 at 12:02 PM

Expect this to still be crushingly screwed up six months from now.

The first 90% of a project takes 90% of the time. The last 10% takes the other 90%, especially if you’re adding programmers to an already late project.

monkeyboy on October 21, 2013 at 12:03 PM

I’m out of snark. I feel terrible for young people. I feel terrible for those without the resources to ameliorate this wave of stupidity through onerous government.

I feel terrible about the destruction of freedom once enjoyed by hundreds of millions of citizens.

Damn them all to hell.

Meremortal on October 21, 2013 at 12:12 PM

“Our team is bringing in some of the best and brightest from both inside and outside government to scrub in with the team and help improve healthcare.gov,”

Scrub healthcare.gov and jail everyone who pushed this anti-American insanity, worked on it, supported it, or otherwise helped push it along.

Funny how they jumped ahead of themselves to call the site healthcare.gov and not healthinsurance.gov …

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on October 21, 2013 at 12:18 PM

One major problem slowing repairs, people close to the program say, is that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency in charge of the exchange, is responsible for making sure that the separately designed databases and pieces of software from 55 contractors work together. It is not common for a federal agency to assume that role,

LOL.

DHS subsumed some tens of different feral government agencies using all sorts of different software and protocols. The feral government, itself, deals with this issue hundreds of times bigger and more complicated. Tying together disparate systems and protocols probably takes up more time and money in the feral government than most other logistical pursuits.

This silliness of 55 contractors is nothing. It is all about incompetence and the fact that the feral government hires the dumbest people to waste the most money on things that are, more often than not, totally un-Constitutional … all without any reasonable means to gauge their performance and no way to actually fire any of these dumbsh!ts.

Creating these exchanges is not that complicated and not a very difficult endeavor. It shouldn’t have cost even $100 million, let alone almost 3/4 of a billion, and it should have been up and running smoothly (at least on the front end) in less than a year.

What we see with this predictable flop is the technological equivalent of looking at the “profit AND earnings ratios”. A bunch of retards who have no business doing anything of import given ungodly sums of money and let loose. They should all be jailed and then deported to Venezuela. They can take over the toilet paper factories and help them out down there.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on October 21, 2013 at 12:25 PM

“Our team is bringing in some of the best and brightest from both inside and outside government to scrub in with the team and help improve healthcare.gov,”

Huh. My phone isn’t ringing yet. He must mean the best and brightest among the Demorats.

2ndMAW68 on October 21, 2013 at 9:09 AM

He means lawyers and PR flacks. They haven’t figured out yet that they need programmers.

SomeCallMeJohn on October 21, 2013 at 12:58 PM

These megamorons in the King Putt Administration are in for an even bigger dissapointment. Repairing a complex software suite while it is runnning over the next weeks or months is akin to rebuilding an airplane while it is in flight.
Beta test? What’s that?

Missilengr on October 21, 2013 at 2:12 PM

They must have hired Dilbert’s firm to build the original site. But there’s good news, now Wally has been hired to fix the glitches and will blame Ted when failure becomes inevitable…

Pest on October 21, 2013 at 3:52 PM

How to LIE with the Truth.

Obama said, “In some places it is costing less than expected!”

So; is he saying that a Family of Four is going to save MORE than $2,500.00 a year?
OR
Is he saying that the Price is not going to GO UP as much as Republicans said it was?
.
You get three guesses, first two don’t count.

jaydee_007 on October 21, 2013 at 4:45 PM

“Slow to issue orders”, do you believe it? Staggering! Will they, Obama, issue orders in say 3 1/2 years?

arand on October 21, 2013 at 5:11 PM

The Obama administration has promised a “tech surge” to tackle the myriad technical issues that have plagued HealthCare.gov, acknowledging that the online health insurance marketplace “has not lived up to the expectations of the American people.”

Umm, that’s the problem champ. It HAS lived up to our expectations.

NOMOBO on October 21, 2013 at 8:43 PM

With props to Weird Al Yankovic:

Now how much would you pay?
But wait, there’s more!
It’s not sold in any store!
Now how much would you pay?
Don’t answer yet!
Just look what else you get!
Now how much would you pay?
If you order today

Mr. Obama!
Mr. Obama!

Make me buy an ACA compliant policy
Make me pay a $5,000 deductible
Make me take advantage
Of your amazing TV offer
Call our toll-free number
We’ll make you such a deal
Aaw, help me!
Mr. Obama I want it!
Mr. Obama,
Well, I need it!
Mr. Obama,
I got to got to have it!
Mr. Obama!
Mr.Obama!

susandiane311 on October 21, 2013 at 9:09 PM

I’m out of snark. I feel terrible for young people. I feel terrible for those without the resources to ameliorate this wave of stupidity through onerous government.

I feel terrible about the destruction of freedom once enjoyed by hundreds of millions of citizens.

Damn them all to hell.

Meremortal on October 21, 2013 at 12:12 PM

+100

in_awe on October 21, 2013 at 11:51 PM

When did the 11 million plus lines words of regulation get completed? That is the real time the developers have had to work with something from which a proper specification could be derived. Before that they were probably working with very fluid specifications and certainly no interface documents that made any sense. NOW is when we should start counting the three or so years it would take to understand the 11 million words, extract proper specifications and interface documents, and finally code and test the fool thing.

Cruz is right feeling this cluster fxck needs to be abolished and something far simpler put in its place, something we can afford.

{^_^}

herself on October 22, 2013 at 3:39 AM

gang

Im a quite Senior tech guy, an enterprise/technology architect

this thing cannot be done, with the fedgov, the 50 states, the various other entities like insurers and irs, it cannot be done

Ontario wasted 1 billion dollars on this and gave up

the brits wasted 7 billion pounds on this, and gave up

This is more complex than just automating and computerizing electronic health records, massively moreso….

and the fool academic, who thinks government is wonderful, is setup for a fall of epic proportion(SCOOTER)

will the media cover for him again, or is the pathethic media court going to cover it all up overall ?

Gauthijm on October 22, 2013 at 12:08 PM

Comment pages: 1 2