The rollout of Obamacare has been so disastrous that even “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart was plainly mystified and unconvinced when Sebelius came on his show the other day to offer soothing explanations and reassurances. Stewart gently expressed his frustration that there is “a level of incompetence that is larger than what it should be,”and...
Nancy Pelosi infamously said that we had to pass the law to find out what’s in it. But the then-House speaker erroneously assumed, evidently, that people would be able to get onto the government-run exchanges created by the law. So far the law’s implementation has been as ugly as its passage.As a professional software developer (among other things) with 28 years of experience in both private and public sectors, I happen to have expertise in this field. In fact, four years ago, I wrote an open enrollment system for a public agency with complex flexible benefits covering health insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance, health and dependent savings accounts, deferred compensation, long term disability insurance, and life insurance. The system is still running today, and while the scales are not comparable, my system has enrolled more people this year that the states of Maryland (326), Iowa (5), and Hawaii (0) combined. I understand system development, analysis, design, testing, tuning, documentation, and deployment from conception to production. Creating good software is very hard. If you haven't done it for a living, it is easy to underestimate and hard to appreciate.
I've had the unfortunate experience to be pulled into a large failing government project (Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, Medicare Part B) many years ago. I witnessed amazing incompetence, especially at the management level, that torpedoed the 90 hour/week efforts the programmers were suffering. In that project, out of 9 different virtual systems, no one could identify which was production. There were 6 test systems, all out of sync with each other, and 3 remaining systems, any of which "might" have been the production system. Programmers would apply their updates to the 3 possible production systems, frequently overwriting updates from other programming teams. The ticketing system worked intermittently and databases went down without warning. It was chaos when I started the engagement, and chaos when I left. The firm I worked for at the time collected huge consulting fees for the effort, but very little got permanently fixed over that 6 month period.
This kind of scenario might be playing out behind the scenes at Healthcare.gov. There are probably numerous contractors that built various pieces of the system (I know Experian is one of the culprits) at a cost, so far, of over $600 million. But contractors sometimes have little control or incentive to get the get the whole system working. They are focused on their part and collecting time and materials on a can't lose contract. What I'm suggesting is that it could easily be 6-12 months before the system is stable and performing as expected. Bringing in outside experts at this stage won't help and might even be counterproductive. Blame is being passed around and the work environment is probably toxic.
Obama might have saved himself a huge embarrassment if he had allowed the individual mandate to be delayed a year as the Republicans first wanted. Instead, he forced America to use the half baked, wheezing, hot mess that is the current system. For that, the President and Department of Health and Human Services have earned the Boat of Gloat.
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