OPINION: Wall Street Journal Editorial: Obamacare’s Black Box

October 17, 2013

Siri, What is Wrong with HealthCare.gov?

President Comparing HealthCare.gov’s Woes to Apple Doesn’t Add Up

Despite repeated assurances that everything was “on track” for October 1, followed by clever attempts to downplay the “glitches” hampering the federally facilitated marketplaces, the president’s health care law remains a technology nightmare. The Wall Street Journal editorial board explains, “Before the rollout, Mr. Obama and Mrs. Sebelius likened the exchanges to a new Apple product and asked for forbearance as problems were fixed. But Apple doesn’t ship products that don’t work and then force everyone to buy them, and a private business executive who supervised a fiasco like this would already have been fired.” Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas also addressed problems with the Apple analogy in The Washington Post, writing, “…the Obama administration doesn’t have a basically working product that would be improved by a software update. They have a web site that almost nobody has been able to successfully use. If Apple launched a major new product that functioned as badly as Obamacare’s online insurance marketplace, the tech world would be calling for Tim Cook’s head.”

Energy and Commerce Committee leaders have sent letters to the administration as well as lead IT contractors regarding the “glitches” that have defined the past several weeks; the committee is also requesting enrollment figures from the administration, which have so far been kept from the public.

October 16, 2013

EDITORIAL: Obamacare’s Black Box

The White House set low expectations for the Affordable Care Act's October 1 debut, so anything remotely competent should have seemed like a success. But three weeks on, the catastrophe that is Healthcare.gov and the 36 insurance exchanges run by the federal government is an insult to the "glitches" President Obama said were inevitable.

This isn't some coding error, or even the Health and Human Service Department's usual incompetence. The failures that have all but disabled ObamaCare are the result of deliberate political choices, which HHS and the White House are compounding with secrecy and stonewalling.

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The health industry and low-level Administration officials warned that the exchanges were badly off schedule and not stress-tested despite three years to prepare and more than a half-billion dollars in funding. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and her planners swore they'd be ready while impugning critics and even withholding documents from the HHS inspector general for a routine performance audit this summer.

Yet the launch has been worse even than critics predicted. The rare users who weren't locked out experienced crashes, delays and error messages. Mrs. Sebelius initially claimed this was merely servers crashing under unexpectedly high demand. She called it "a great problem to have."

Now that traffic has abated, HHS concedes there were built-in information technology and structural defects. Some of Healthcare.gov's automatic operations mimic hacker denial-of-service attacks meant to disable a site. These can be fixed, though press reports suggest they're due to a programming rush because HHS delayed key regulations and IT specifications until after the election to avoid Republican criticism.

Then instead of rolling out the program in stages or delaying it as HHS has so many other parts of the law, the department simply dumped a bad product on the public to meet a self-created deadline. …

Read the complete editorial online here.

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