Visualizing the Obamacare Snafu

IT experts say the online marketplace failed due to flawed website architecture. Here’s a chart that puts that in perspective.

National Journal
Brian Resnick
See more stories about...
Brian Resnick
Oct. 7, 2013, 7:53 a.m.

This is what an on­line health care ex­change looks like:

Func­tions

The fed­er­al health-ex­change mar­ket­place, ar­chi­tec­tur­ally, is a mess. That, at least, is the con­sensus of IT ex­perts ex­plain­ing to re­port­ers why so few people were able to sign up on­line for health in­sur­ance last week.

  • In the Wall Street Journ­al: “Such a hast­ily con­struc­ted web­site may not have been able to with­stand the on­line de­mand last week.”

  • On Re­u­ters: “Five out­side tech­no­logy ex­perts in­ter­viewed by Re­u­ters, however, say they be­lieve flaws in sys­tem ar­chi­tec­ture, not traffic alone, con­trib­uted to the prob­lems.”

  • On Wonkblog: “Most of the prob­lems like these are in the soft­ware. Hard­ware is the easy part. You can add more hard­ware and do it eas­ily. Soft­ware takes more time.”

Health and Hu­man Ser­vices of­fi­cials ad­mit­ted to The Wall Street Journ­al that the web­site has cod­ing is­sues, and that they “can do bet­ter and we are work­ing around the clock to do so.”

Na­tion­al Journ­al‘s Mar­got Sanger-Katz pre­dicted this out­come. In Ju­ly, she wrote about the lo­gist­ic­al dif­fi­culties of open­ing the ex­changes, es­pe­cially in cre­at­ing an in­form­a­tion hub that ties dis­par­ate streams of data from vari­ous gov­ern­ment agen­cies. The chart at the top of the page tries to sim­pli­fy what that looks like.

“In an ideal world,” she re­por­ted, “the ex­change web­sites need to be able to talk to sev­er­al fed­er­al agen­cies — IRS to veri­fy an ap­plic­ant’s in­come and em­ploy­ment status, the De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cur­ity to de­term­ine her cit­izen­ship, and the state gov­ern­ment to see if she qual­i­fies for Medi­caid, to name a few — all in real time.”

She con­tin­ued: “It is in­creas­ingly clear that the kind of Amazon.com, one-stop shop­ping that was once de­scribed … will not be avail­able in most parts of the coun­try.”

Well, Amazon it is not. But time might fix the on­line mar­ket­place. Speak­ing to The Switch, an IT ex­pert in­volved with its im­ple­ment­a­tion said the first rocky week may not be in­dic­at­ive of lar­ger Obama­care in­fra­struc­ture prob­lems. But if it is, prob­lems could con­tin­ue to trickle down, for in­stance, when people get the bills for their new in­sur­ance plans.

While the design com­plex­it­ies don’t ab­solve the ad­min­is­tra­tion from blame, they do put the ex­change prob­lem in some per­spect­ive. If and when health­care.gov is up and run­ning smoothly, it will be con­sidered an ac­com­plish­ment of in­form­a­tion tech­no­logy in gov­ern­ment, which tends to lag far be­hind the private sec­tor.

What We're Following See More »
1.5 MILLION MORE TUNED IN FOR TRUMP
More People Watched Trump’s Acceptance Speech
1 days ago
THE DETAILS

Hillary Clinton hopes that television ratings for the candidates' acceptance speeches at their respective conventions aren't foreshadowing of similar results at the polls in November. Preliminary results from the networks and cable channels show that 34.9 million people tuned in for Donald Trump's acceptance speech while 33.3 million watched Clinton accept the Democratic nomination. However, it is still possible that the numbers are closer than these ratings suggest: the numbers don't include ratings from PBS or CSPAN, which tend to attract more Democratic viewers.

Source:
×