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The Obamacare rollout IT disaster

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  • The Obamacare rollout IT disaster

    Few would argue that the Obamacare Website has been anything less than a complete nightmare.

    The Obamacare enrollment website remains badly broken despite two weeks of intensive round-the-clock efforts at repairs.

    HHS isn’t making any predictions about how long it will take to fix it — or rebuild it. But advocates, lobbyists and industry officials are talking about it as a months-long repair effort.

    How many months is an open question — and one with big consequences for the massive effort to enroll 7 million people in the new insurance exchanges and millions more in Medicaid by the end of March. People trying to switch from their current insurance into subsidized exchange plans could also face gaps.

    A two-month delay, for instance, would be a different scenario than five or six months, particularly since people can face penalties if they don’t apply by mid-February.

    Two weeks in, Obamacare website still broken - Kyle Cheney and Jason Millman and Jennifer Haberkorn -
    At least they aren't calling it a spontaneous protest of an internet video, but it's still the usual stall and deny tactic from the Obama administration.

    Right as the U.S. government shut down on Oct. 1, the new national health-care exchange went live at Intended for people who want to buy health insurance under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, the website failed from the start. It was unusable to hundreds of thousands of Americans who wanted to enroll. Screens wouldn’t load. A woman trying to get help via Web chat was told to “please be patient” an infuriating 40 times. Despite pledges from Obama administration officials that the “glitches” would be quickly fixed, the list of bugs and problems kept growing. isn’t just a website; it’s more like a platform for building health-care marketplaces. Visiting the site is like visiting a restaurant. You sit in the dining room, read the menu, and tell the waiter what you want, and off he goes to the kitchen with your order. The dining room is the front end, with all the buttons to click and forms to fill out. The kitchen is the back end, with all the databases and services. The contractor most responsible for the back end is CGI Federal. Apparently it’s this company’s part of the system that’s burning up under the load of thousands of simultaneous users.

    But it’s not just that the kitchen’s on fire. The alarm system doesn’t work either. The waiters can’t hear the screams of the cooks. It’s hard for outsiders to tell exactly what’s going on, because CGI Federal’s code is locked away out of sight, and the company hasn’t replied to press inquiries (including those from Bloomberg Businessweek). You can’t get a waiter’s attention to save your life.

    Put charitably, the rollout of has been a mess. Millward Brown Digital, a consulting firm, reports that a mere 1 percent of the 3.7 million people who tried to register on the federal exchange in the first week actually managed to enroll. Even if the problems are fixed, the debacle makes clear that it’s time for the government to change the way it ships code—namely, by embracing the approach to software development that has revolutionized the technology industry.

    Why the Obamacare Website Was Destined to Bomb - Businessweek
    But WHY has this been such an epic failure? Well, as it turns out, the Administration let a $87,000,000 set of contracts to a company that was fired from building a similar - but much smaller - product in Canada.

    Canadian provincial health officials last year fired the parent company of CGI Federal, the prime contractor for the problem-plagued Obamacare health exchange websites, the Washington Examiner has learned.

    CGI Federal’s parent company, Montreal-based CGI Group, was officially terminated in September 2012 by an Ontario government health agency after the firm missed three years of deadlines and failed to deliver the province’s flagship online medical registry.

    The online registry was supposed to be up and running by June 2011.

    Officials at the U.S. government's Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services awarded six technology contracts worth $87 million to CGI Federal for Obamacare website work, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

    The CMS officials refused to say if federal officials knew of its parent company’s IT failure in Canada when awarding the six contracts.

    Canadian officials fired IT firm behind troubled Obamacare website |
    It should not have been difficult to predict that CGI Group was going to fall flat on this one, given that they ran years past deadlines building a similar but much smaller system for Canada.

    We need not even get into the issue of the federal government offshoring $87,000,000 in work...

  • #2
    Re: The Obamacare rollout IT disaster

    It only gets worse. On top of this being an IT fiasco lead by a Canadian company responsible for other disasters, what is working is producing failed data for insurers. No matter how you cut this, the product here is an epic disaster.

    Insurers say the federal health-care marketplace is generating flawed data that is straining their ability to handle even the trickle of enrollees who have gotten through so far, in a sign that technological problems extend further than the website traffic and software issues already identified.

    Emerging errors include duplicate enrollments, spouses reported as children, missing data fields and suspect eligibility determinations, say executives at more than a dozen health plans. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Nebraska said it had to hire temporary workers to contact new customers directly to resolve inaccuracies in submissions. Medical Mutual of Ohio said one customer had successfully signed up for three of its plans.

    The flaws could do lasting damage to the law if customers are deterred from signing up or mistakenly believe they have obtained coverage.

    “The longer this takes to resolve . . . the harder it will be to get people to [come back and] sign up,” said Aetna Inc. Chief Executive Mark Bertolini. “It’s not off to a great start,” he said, though he believes the marketplaces are “here to stay.”
    Obamacare woes widen as insurers get wrong data - MarketWatch

    מה מכילות החדשות?

    • #3
      Re: The Obamacare rollout IT disaster

      This is the typical liberal response to a problem. We gotta do something. It may be the wrong thing but we gotta do something. If this law doesn't get the job done we'll write another to make us "feel" like we are doing something. It may hurt people, it may damage the economy, it may break the country but it makes us feel good to be doing something.

      מה מכילות החדשות?

      • #4
        Re: The Obamacare rollout IT disaster

        I could have built the same site for say 25,000 and had just as good functionality.

        Why did this go to a Foreign company btw? CGI who has a bad track record with Canada and is based in Canada. Couldn't a US Company have done this.

        מה מכילות החדשות?

        • #5
          Re: The Obamacare rollout IT disaster

          Originally posted by Wlessard View Post
          I could have built the same site for say 25,000 and had just as good functionality.

          Why did this go to a Foreign company btw? CGI who has a bad track record with Canada and is based in Canada. Couldn't a US Company have done this.
          Wouldn't pony up contributions to the right people.

          מה מכילות החדשות?

          • #6
            Re: The Obamacare rollout IT disaster

            I understand that the White House is working over time on the problem... of how to blame this all on George W. Bush.

            מה מכילות החדשות?

            • #7
              Re: The Obamacare rollout IT disaster

              Ok I feel like I have to come to the defense of my fellow IT men and women.

              I've read an article by a fellow programmer explaining some of the difficulties, but unfortunately I can't find it. Google only comes up with superficial stuff about the front end.

              Basically the argument was that in order to make sure each application is legit, a lot of dependencies in existing systems have to be checked, with companies and agencies, both federal and state. If any of these existing systems fail, for example because they aren't used to the load, it may not be wise to let a user continue with his application.

              The modern way to design systems like this is called "agile", sort of like the Facebook/Gmail way: start small with a few features, do a large portion of the administrative tasks manually at first, and iteratively add features and automation, and fix performance issues while you slowly scale to more users.

              Concretely this can mean that you should have rolled out in 1 county at the start of the year, and add more users only as you can handle them. We can speculate, but I think this was not deemed acceptable by the governement who wanted a fixed launch date for all of the country.
              Last edited by erikvv; 10-18-2013, 06:55 AM.

              מה מכילות החדשות?

              • #8
                Re: The Obamacare rollout IT disaster

                Originally posted by tsquare View Post
                I understand that the White House is working over time on the problem... of how to blame this all on George W. Bush.
                We should have put an over / under bet on someone blaming Bush 43 for this...

                מה מכילות החדשות?

                • #9
                  Re: The Obamacare rollout IT disaster

                  Speaking of Obamacare IT disasters:

                  (NaturalNews) The Obama administration has been caught red-handed engaged in software piracy. Computer code used on was stolen (and then modified in an effort to conceal the theft) from a UK company called Spry Media.

                  To my best knowledge, this story was broken by in a blog authored by Jeryl Bier.

                  The computer code that was stolen is called DataTables, and it is exclusively provided under a GPL v2 license which requires anyone who uses the software code to keep the copyright notice visible in the code itself. This allows the original author of the code to receive attribution for creating it.
                  So I don't get how this works now: Software piracy is a federal crime. One of the things DHS has been doing is seizing websites that are found to be engaging in software piracy... But what happens if it is the government who is pirating the software? How does that work in this instance?

                  מה מכילות החדשות?

                  • #10
                    Re: The Obamacare rollout IT disaster

                    Originally posted by Sluggo View Post
                    We should have put an over / under bet on someone blaming Bush 43 for this...
                    How about Nov 1st?

                    30 days should be enough time, don't you think?

                    מה מכילות החדשות?

                    • #11
                      Re: The Obamacare rollout IT disaster


                      Best news I've heard all morning (maybe all week)

                      "If the exchanges don't get fixed soon," she writes, "they could destroy Obamacare." You need the exchanges to enroll enough young healthy people to subsidize those who are sick and old, which is one of the central features of Obamacare.

                      Otherwise, premiums shoot up and up, pushing others out of the system -- a death spiral that can continue year after year.
                      And like EVERY Republican has asked for:

                      "At what point," she asks, "do we admit that the system just isn't working well enough, roll it back and delay the whole thing for a year?" She suggests that if the system can't enroll 50 percent of its users by November 1, such a hugely drastic step would be in order.
                      But you see... Obama CAN'T do that now... he is stuck by his own insane rhetoric. Do yo think for one minute that Obama would ever do what's best for the nation, if it meant giving the Republicans a 'victory'?

                      Obama is now trapped... by his own crap... and he has no good will on the other side... he has burned all that.


                      What if Obamacare Software Crashes and Burns? | RealClearPolitics

                      מה מכילות החדשות?

                      • #12
                        Re: The Obamacare rollout IT disaster

                        Originally posted by Good1 View Post
                        So I don't get how this works now: Software piracy is a federal crime. One of the things DHS has been doing is seizing websites that are found to be engaging in software piracy... But what happens if it is the government who is pirating the software? How does that work in this instance?
                        I don't know if you can say that breaking the GPL equals piracy. I haven't heard of anyone being convicted for it. Probably it's not, because there are no large commercial interests behind GPL'ed software. See

                        What's the real issue to me here is that the governement should have demanded that the software be open source in the first place. But I do think the GPL is too restrictive if you actually want people to use your code. It reeks of political activists like Stallman, rather than pragmatic programmers.
                        Last edited by erikvv; 10-18-2013, 07:11 AM.

                        מה מכילות החדשות?

                        • #13
                          Re: The Obamacare rollout IT disaster

                          Slight security issue there, no? I mean it would give a lot of fodder to conservatives who talk about personal information and privacy etc.

                          מה מכילות החדשות?

                          • #14
                            Re: The Obamacare rollout IT disaster

                            Originally posted by Good1 View Post
                            Speaking of Obamacare IT disasters:

                            So I don't get how this works now: Software piracy is a federal crime. One of the things DHS has been doing is seizing websites that are found to be engaging in software piracy... But what happens if it is the government who is pirating the software? How does that work in this instance?
                            When has breaking the law been an issue with this administration?

                            מה מכילות החדשות?

                            • #15
                              Re: The Obamacare rollout IT disaster

                              Originally posted by erikvv View Post
                              Ok I feel like I have to come to the defense of my fellow IT men and women.
                              Don't lump every tech person in with the jackboots who created their healthcare site, though. We have plenty of tech heads here and they would have never created a monstrosity like the ACA site.

                              No need t defend all tech guys, just the ones who created that site, as they need the defending.

                              מה מכילות החדשות?