October 23rd, 2013
It is October 22, 2013, three weeks after the healthcare.gov website opened its doors. The website is still not working properly. Parts of it are working reasonably well, and a few people are getting all the way through the enrollment process. But multiple failures are still occurring throughout the system. In particular, there are serious concerns about the functioning of the “back end” of the process, where applicants are actually enrolled in qualified health plans with insurers.
The President’s frustration was demonstrated in his remarks of October 21. He noted that there are alternative pathways to eligibility — the call center and paper applications — and promised that the exchange will in the coming weeks contact people who initiated but were unable to complete the application process. He also reminded listeners that “the Affordable Care Act is not just a website.”
The President committed the full power of the federal government to making the website work. On October 22, Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius proclaimed a “technology surge” to fix the website. She announced that HHS is bringing in Jeff Zients, who has extensive technology leadership experience in both the private and public sector, to provide management advice and counsel to the website repair project. She also stated that HHS is drawing in experts from across the government and industry “as part of a cross-functional team that is working aggressively to diagnose parts of HealthCare.gov that are experiencing problems, learn from successful states, prioritize issues, and fix them.”
The healthcare.gov website will get fixed. This is not cold fusion. It is a website, and the technology to build websites is known. But the task of matching millions of individuals to the health plan of their choice while providing financial assistance to pay for coverage is terribly complex. The marketplace securely connects four federal agencies, state governments, and dozens of insurers, and must accurately verify an enormous volume of information. It is disappointing that HHS could not have the website ready in time, and it was unwise for HHS to have launched a website that was not adequately tested. But at some point in the future, the website will be fully functional.Read the rest of this entry »