“I think we probably underestimated the complexities of building out a website that needed to work the way it should,” [President Obama] told the annual meeting of the Wall Street Journal CEO Council.
The [security] experts said the site needed to be completely rebuilt to run more efficiently, making it easier to protect. They said HealthCare.gov runs on 500 million lines of code, or 25 times the size of Facebook, one of the world’s busiest sites.
One of the most important repairs remaining deals with the information pages that the system provides to insurers about coverage applicants. These so-called “834s” have been riddled with erroneous information and, despite weeks of repairs, they continue to spit out incorrect data.
The enrollment, to give you a general sense of what’s happening, for a health plan that might have to sign-up 100,000 people in order to get their share of the 7 million Obama administration’s national enrollment objective, has grown from perhaps 10-15 enrollments a day a few weeks ago to 40-50 a day now … Backroom error rates being committed by Healthcare.gov, when enrollment data are transmitted to the health plans, are still far too high to transition to high volume processing without serious customer service issues.
The last quote is from an insurance industry insider, so take that into account in whatever fashion you think appropriate. I was too lazy to google the security experts cited in the bit about that aspect of the site, but 500 million lines of code? Holy crap. Can that be true?
I don’t know what to say about that first quote. Here you have a web site meant to accommodate tens of thousands of simultaneous visitors whose activities would result in information moving to and from a slew of massive federal databases as well as a credit agency (which still strikes me as bizarre) and a legion of insurance companies. And you didn’t know it would be a hideously complex venture?
500 million lines of code. Yes, there might be a vulnerability in there somewhere. Surely that includes some of the systems the site draws on?
The bit about the continuing errors in the forms sent to insurers seems particularly fraught. The administration say that four of five users should have no problem accessing the site by the end of this month, but users on the front end will have no way of knowing about any errors being transmitted on the back end until the insurance company tells them. That’s a particularly insidious situation for people who have to buy by December 15 in order to be insured on January 1st of next year. Insurance companies are still processing applications by hand because of the form errors, so buyers will be in trouble if the errors continue and the companies get inundated.
In addition to that issue, customers will probably have to make payment at least a few days before December 15 to make sure the companies post it in time because they can’t pay via the site. That compresses the window even further.
Years and years and years ago a customer at the bar where I worked told me that in his work as a therapist, he sometimes had clients who couldn’t assimilate the possibility that their relationships might be beyond repair. With 26 days (or fewer) before it’s too late for several million people to replace the coverage they’re losing on January 1st, along with who knows how many who don’t have coverage now but would like to start on January 1st, it’s time for Obamacare optimists to consider the idea that this may not work out.
A week ago I was telling some folks that the administration needed a Plan B, which turned out to be the sleight-of-hand extension of cancelled policies. Now it’s time for Plan C. Maybe the gremlins will all be run out of Dodge in the next ten days but one can’t dismiss the possibility that they won’t.
UPDATE: Along the lines of what the family therapist told me at the bar whilst deep in his cups … “Failure is Always an Option,” from found-materials playwright, former Electronic Freedom Foundation executive and current guy who does TED talks, Clay Shirky.