Sunday, October 13, 2013

More on the Obamacare Website Follies

Were it not for Washington politics the nation’s attention would now be transfixed on the failure of the Obamacare website.

Yesterday, Robert Pear et al. reported on the problems for the New York Times:

In March, Henry Chao, the chief digital architect for the Obama administration’s new online insurance marketplace, told industry executives that he was deeply worried about the Web site’s debut. “Let’s just make sure it’s not a third-world experience,” he told them.

Two weeks after the rollout, few would say his hopes were realized.

For the past 12 days, a system costing more than $400 million and billed as a one-stop click-and-go hub for citizens seeking health insurance has thwarted the efforts of millions to simply log in. The growing national outcry has deeply embarrassed the White House, which has refused to say how many people have enrolled through the federal exchange.

Even some supporters of the Affordable Care Act worry that the flaws in the system, if not quickly fixed, could threaten the fiscal health of the insurance initiative, which depends on throngs of customers to spread the risk and keep prices low.

“These are not glitches,” said an insurance executive who has participated in many conference calls on the federal exchange. Like many people interviewed for this article, the executive spoke on the condition of anonymity, saying he did not wish to alienate the federal officials with whom he works. “The extent of the problems is pretty enormous. At the end of our calls, people say, ‘It’s awful, just awful.’ ”

Ed Rogers is a Republican partisan, but his column explains that there is more to the failure than politics. The reputation and prestige of American technology has suffered a grievous blow from the Obamacare site:

What the president heralds as his signature accomplishment is not only creating great domestic upheaval as a political and policy failure, it is also an immense American technological failure on display for the world to see.

The American brand has been dealt some sharp blows under this administration. We are suffering from a weak economy, reeling from the recent embarrassing debacle over Syria’s chemical weapons, and we still haven’t brought anyone to justice over what happened in Benghazi. The world watched as our enemies protected junior nobody Edward Snowden when he handed over our secrets, and now the world is witnessing unbecoming squabbling in Washington as our government remains shut down. We also have to contend with this unflattering picture of American technological capabilities. We may have invented the Internet, but our position as the leader in computer and software development has suffered a setback.

The White House and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) claim they do not know how many Americans have successfully signed up for Obamacare. Unofficial reports say that perhaps as few as 51,000 people were able to complete applications during the first week. Is President Obama angry about this roll out? Does he not know what is happening? How long can his administration pretend it doesn’t know the extent of its problems?

Rogers continued:

By the way, information technology specialists and chief technology officers seem to agree that there is no reason the Obamacare Web site should have been such a disaster.  As one chief technology officer told The Post, “I think that any modern Web company would be well prepared for a launch of this scale. We’re not talking about hundreds of millions of people and we’re not talking about complex transactions.” As Forbes columnist Avik Roy points out, the HHS should have been able to “anticipate the need to build a system that can handle the average daily traffic of the Drudge Report.”

Shopping online is not new. There are a lot of templates already in place, from travel Web sites to online retailers. If the Obama administration had just admitted it needed a one-year delay in the individual mandate, perhaps it could have avoided this whole situation.

In truth, the failure belongs to the American government more than to American business. Most of the world will not make the distinction. 


Anonymous said...

With all the lobbying and campaign money that's come into Washington from Silicon Valley since 9/11, there's little surprise here. Pigs at the trough have little incentive to deliver something that works. After all, follow the money... they'll get paid billions and millions more to fix the junk software they laid down. And NSA activities create demand for a lot of servers, storage and software.

The government doesn't get incentives for a good citizen experience, it's there to protect the integrity of transactions. And it doesn't do this very well, does it?

ObanaCare was a campaign tool. It's also the first step toward a long-time Left-wing ideological dream: single payer. It's designed from the ground up to fail, necessitating single payer to fulfill the promise... and damn the 85% who had private health insurance beforehand. That's the price of "progress."

Peggy Noonan pointed out in yesterday's WSJ that governing may be the boring stuff of government, but it's what they're supposed to do. Obama and his crew aren't doing anything. They're just talking. Not negotiating or bargaining, just talking... perpetual campaign mode. More postmodernism: narrative trumps reality. And big media just parrots whatever Jay Carney tells them.

No consequences for Obama and the Democrats, no matter what they do or don't do. Must be nice for them. It sucks for the rest of us, and few in Washington know, nor care. D.C. is all fat and happy. What recession?


Cid said...

It will be nice for them until they go to Hell.

Dennis said...


I often wonder if journalists and reporters were just too incompetent to succeed in any other field of endeavor. A profession where they can do everything possible to destroy those with the wherewithal to work hard and make it and degrade the country that made other's success possible.
I stated for a long time that Obamacare was NOT supposed to work and for the very reasons you postulate. One of the reasons Obama and the Dems are holding the rest of us hostage is that they know/knew it was a failure and to make any concessions would bring down the house of cards they have constructed.
The more I look at this the less I blame government, or the civil servant, and the more I blame voters who take neither the time nor effort to understand the issues and become conversant with that governing. There are a number of ways that we the people could put an end to this peaceably, but we are too busy complaining instead of noticing that we really do have the power. The States are the starting point for they have the ability to call for a Constitutional Convention sans Washington's approval. They could make 5 to 10 changes that would change the dynamic in Washington from the politician's favor to the people's favor.
The people could start to protest in a manner that brings Washington DC to a stand still and do it peacefully. We could educate people on the real history of this country. I could go on, but this is not the forum.
We get the government we deserve because we DO NOT take enough interest in the one thing that can control our lives, take away our freedoms and do considerable damage to what it means to be an American. It is every American's responsibility to get involved with governing. It is one of our most important responsibilities. No one is a slave until they accept that slavery in their own mind.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the "follies" of the web site are not as serious and not as damaging to the reputation of the United States as the follies of the shutdown--which, rightly or wrongly, the "rest of the world" perceives clearly as the fault, choice and responsibility of "Congressional Republicans."

Trust me, the leaders of China, Russia, and the rest of the big powers are not being kept up at night by the Obamacare website. They're more concerned about a little thing like, I don't know, the US defaulting on its debt.

They perceive what's going on: Republicans "risking the global economy" to play politics with Obama's domestic agenda.

In fact, your favorite word, "diminished," keeps popping up in World commentaries. For once, it's actually true. America IS being "diminished," but not by the freakin' gitches in a web site.

Anonymous said...


Dennis said...

This is what I am alluding to the actions the common person can take to demonstrate its displeasure with the actions of government. One forces the government into actions that do not reflect well on them. Mao was not one of humanity's good people but he understood that putting the government in a position that places them opposed to the common person would do great harm to the government. How many people are those who control government going to arrest? The only good government is one that the people fee and know they have a stake in. The government either represents the people or it doesn't.
In disadvantage lies the seeds of advantage.