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Obamacare Open Enrollment, Week Two


We’re already well into the second week of open enrollment, and the errors that plagued Obamacare’s federal exchanges last week don’t seem to be going away yet. A number of news sites trying to access the exchanges report continued technical difficulties. One blogger trying to get coverage for his family has been trying to sign up for four days, without success. USA Today is now calling the launch an “inexcusable mess.”

The justification for the problems offered last week—that the glitches were caused only by too much traffic—are becoming less plausible the longer the malfunctions persist. Over the weekend, the WSJ ran an article blowing apart this spin:

Information technology experts who examined the website at the request of The Wall Street Journal said the site appeared to be built on a sloppy software foundation. Such a hastily constructed website may not have been able to withstand the online demand last week, they said.

Engineers at Web-hosting company Media Temple Inc. found a glut of stray software code that served no purpose they could identify. They also said basic Web-efficiency techniques weren’t used, such as saving parts of the website that change infrequently so they can be loaded more quickly. Those factors clog the website’s plumbing, Media Temple said.

A similar article in Reuters confirmed that the site would have had significant IT problems even if far fewer people had visited it.

The award for ultimate smackdown of the Obamacare rollout perhaps should go to John Stewart for his interview with Kathleen Sebelius on The Daily Show. Stewart tends to skew left in his politics, but in the interview he expressed the frustration that lots of Americans trying to sign up for coverage must feel. “I’m going to attempt to download every movie ever made,” he said “and you’re going to try to sign up for Obamacare, and we’ll see which happens first.”

We can only imagine how much more press this story would be getting if Federal Shutdown Theater weren’t playing.

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  • cubanbob

    Why is anyone surprised? If these guys owned a gas station and stole the customers cars they still couldn’t make a buck. What’s more amazing there people who want this crew to run the health care system for them.

    • Andrew Allison

      The problem is that “this crew” want private insurance companies (follow the money!) to run the health care system for them. If you add millions of people to the insured roles, it has to be paid for. The possibilities are: increased premia, reduced benefits, or cutting out the middle man.

      • cubanbob

        Policies don’t sell and service themselves. Someone has to do it. So whether its an insurance company, an entity that has a real understanding of insurance or a government agency there is still an overhead. CMS is in a sense an insurance company but just more incompetent and wasteful.

        • Andrew Allison

          Yawn. Infant mortality and longevity are the only meaningful measures of the effectiveness of health care.

          Private insurance companies are in business to make money (not a criticism, merely recognition of their duty to their owners). Government is, supposedly, in the business of providing services (see above).

          The fatal flaw of ACA is that it failed to eliminate the profit motive.

          The so-called incompetency and wastefulness of CMS is, I suggest, reflected by the huge discounts which providers accept.

  • ljgude

    I happen to be a MediaTemple customer. I’m sure I don’t have the same level of service that Obamacare has but I do know another company that is really proficient at scaling to meet demand – SquareSpace. You can’t bring their sites down. They wouldn’t work for Obamacare because they have predetermined templates with no bandwidth hogging code, but if I were looking for a company to roll out Obamacare I’d work with them closely to see if their scalable hosting solution could be adapted to the government’s needs. The truth is that you can bring most sites down if many people go to the URL at the same time. Live podcasters do it unintentionally all the time by mentioning a URL to their audience which is a whole lot smaller audience than the Obamacare audience. Mediatemple does offer scalable solutions, but this is a monster ask and evidently the code is half baked and causing heaps of extra bandwidth problems. As Dirty Harry would say “Marvelous”.

  • clazy8

    Does Jon Stewart realize that his zinger goes right to the heart of the problem with Obamacare? Private individuals in a free market will always deliver better service than the government and for less, because who knows better whether a customer is getting what he needs — a bureaucrat in DC, or the customer himself? (Yes, I know the answer to that question isn’t obvious in DC, where everybody has a vested interest assuming they know best.) It doesn’t take five/ten/twenty thousand pages of regulations to ensure everyone has a minimal level of healthcare. Just put a voucher in every citizen’s hands and let them do the rest.

    • Andrew Allison

      “Private individuals in a free market will always deliver better service than the government and for less, because who knows better whether a customer is getting what he needs — a bureaucrat in DC, or the customer himself?”
      The fact is that US infant mortality is 39% greater than (and longevity two years less than) under the much maligned NHS — at less than half the cost. The issue is simple: do you want to do the best for the most, or just for those who can afford private insurance?

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