This is what an online health care exchange looks like:
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.
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Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”