The Health Care Website Is Not Like Facebook

Comparing the two platforms, as one congressman did Thursday morning, doesn’t quite work.

National Journal
Marina Koren
Add to Briefcase
Marina Koren
Oct. 24, 2013, 12:08 p.m.

When ques­tion­ing ex­ec­ut­ives of the con­tract­or be­hind the prob­lem-plagued health care web­site dur­ing a House hear­ing Thursday, Rep. Steve Scal­ise brought up a pop­u­lar, user-friendly site for com­par­is­on.

“It’s been re­por­ted over $500 mil­lion of tax­pay­er money [was] spent to build this web­site, more money, by the way, than it cost to build Face­book,” the Re­pub­lic­an from Louisi­ana said, cit­ing a Di­git­al Trends piece that re­por­ted the so­cial net­work sur­passed $500 mil­lion in spend­ing costs six years in­to its ex­ist­ence. “Face­book gets 700 mil­lion users a day. Sev­en hun­dred people use that — mil­lion people use that site every day, and it works.”

The thing is, Health­Care.gov isn’t any­thing like Face­book. Nev­er mind that the two serve very dif­fer­ent pur­poses — the former to sign up un­in­sured Amer­ic­ans for health plans, the lat­ter to fuel your fear of miss­ing out. A lot more goes in­to the health care site than in­to Face­book, in­clud­ing 10 times as many lines of code, as this graph­ic by Or­ange, Cal­if.-based web de­veloper Alex Marchant shows. The size of the fed­er­al web­site’s code base, 500 mil­lion lines, sur­passes that of Face­book, Win­dows XP, Linux, and Google Chrome.

(Cour­tesy of Alex Marchant)

The web­site must com­mu­nic­ate with a host of dif­fer­ent data­bases. It links up with a num­ber of fed­er­al agen­cies, in­clud­ing Health and Hu­man Ser­vices, the So­cial Se­cur­ity Ad­min­is­tra­tion, and the Treas­ury De­part­ment. It in­ter­acts with state-run on­line health ex­changes. And it con­nects with out­side health in­sur­ance com­pan­ies. All that com­mu­nic­a­tion, which re­quires a great deal of code to build and carry out, can over­whelm the en­tire sys­tem. “The more you have to ask an­oth­er data­base for in­form­a­tion, the more it can get over­whelmed,” com­puter sci­ent­ist Jonath­an Wu told Re­u­ters earli­er this month.

While Face­book hosts vari­ous apps and games, it’s ul­ti­mately a single ap­plic­a­tion, as Wired ex­plains, not even an op­er­at­ing sys­tem, such as Win­dows. When the site launched in 2004, it only wel­comed a few hun­dred users, not the mil­lions that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion en­cour­aged to sign up, all at the same time. Over time, the so­cial net­work ex­pan­ded its plat­form to ac­com­mod­ate a grow­ing num­ber of users. The health care web­site, it ap­pears, is build­ing in re­verse. In the days and weeks aheads, the lines of code will only get longer.

What We're Following See More »
BUCKING THE BOSS?
Trump Cabinet Full of TPP Supporters
3 minutes ago
WHY WE CARE

"President-elect Donald Trump railed against the Trans-Pacific Partnership on his way to winning the White House and has vowed immediately to withdraw the U.S. from the 12-nation accord. Several of his cabinet picks and other early nominees to top posts, however, have endorsed or spoken favorably about the trade pact, including Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, announced Wednesday as Mr. Trump’s pick for ambassador to China, and retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, Mr. Trump’s pick to head the Department of Defense."

Source:
LIFTS PRE-EXISTING ORDER
Judge Effectively Ends Michigan Recount
2 hours ago
THE LATEST
WWE WRESTLING OWNER
Trump to Nominate Linda McMahon to Head SBA
16 hours ago
THE LATEST
$6.3 BILLION FOR RESEARCH AND OPIOIDS
Senate Sends Medical Cures Bill to Obama’s Desk
20 hours ago
THE LATEST
HAD CONSIDERED RUNNING FOR GUV IN 2018
Oklahoma AG Pruitt to Get the Nod for EPA Chief
21 hours ago
THE DETAILS
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login