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article imageOp-Ed: Obamacare website in need of repairs to fix glitches

By Ken Hanly     Oct 13, 2013 in Health
Washington - The October 1 rollout of Obamacare's new exchange website could just be the start of technology problems that are fraying tempers and perhaps will end up preventing 7 million people from being enrolled in the new exchanges by the end of March next year.
Already millions using the Affordable Care Act's on line marketplace have experienced error messages, delays, and crashes. These types of glitches could happen at each step in the process such as filling out applications, checking subsidies, and selecting a plan.
Consultant Dan Schuyler, who aided in the design of a health exchange in Utah said: “There is grave concern that many individuals who are intent on securing coverage by [Jan. 1] may not be able to do so by that date. There’s a small window [the Department of Health and Human Services] has. If the problems persist another three or four weeks, those at the back of the line will not have coverage.”
So far both the Obama administration and the contractors responsible for building the federal website have placed much of the blame simply on overwhelming turnout. This has given the Republicans a new opening to attack the Obama administration and they are demanding explanations as to the cause of the glitches. Many senior Republicans were predicting a train wreck at the same time as they refused to grant Democrats money to fund the system. However, contractors HHS, CGI, and Quality Systems Software had assured the public that everything was ready to go but as Fred Upton, the House Ways and Means Committee Chair, said: “Instead, here we are 10 days later and delays and technical failures have reached epidemic proportions.”
Outside tech experts have speculated about the causes of the glitches. Some software engineers think that the consumer input side of the website which was designed by one contractor is not communicating properly with the "back end" of the website which was designed by a different contractor. No doubt many of the troubles are due to lack of time to test the system to work out the bugs. Many companies first launch beta versions of software to work out the bugs before a final version. In this case, the system was rushed because of time constraints.
Luke Chung an online database programmer said: "It wasn't designed well, it wasn't implemented well, and it looks like nobody tested it, It's not even close. It's not even ready for beta testing for my book. I would be ashamed and embarrassed if my organization delivered something like that". Chung is a supporter of Obamacare but he claims that it is not the heavy traffic that is crashing the site but flaws in the design. However, he said that there are reports that people are being required to change their passwords to register. He said this is a positive sign which suggests that someone is making major changes to the system.
An Associated Press/GFK poll does not paint a pretty picture of opinion about the federal website so far. The poll found that 7 per cent of Americans had someone in their household try to purchase insurance through the government marketplace. This could represent about 20 million applicants.
Only one in 10 were actually able to complete the process and buy insurance. Three quarters of those using the site had problems with the site. Forty per cent said that their experience had not gone well. Twenty per cent said that it had gone somewhat well, but only 7 per cent reported it had gone very well. However, thirty percent had not reached a verdict indicating perhaps that many are adopting a wait and see attitude.
Not everyone had problems. Janice Brown, a part-time travel agent in California told the press that she was able to download an application for a plan at $1,500 a month for herself and her husband, $1,000 less than her current plan. I find those premiums mind boggling but then in Manitoba we have a provincial universal single pay system financed through general revenues.
The federal website can be used by residents of 36 states. Other states operate their own websites and exchanges. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius claims that the sick federal website is on the mend: "We've identified the glitches, we've added hardware, we're recoding software, and I can tell you today is better than yesterday, and we are hoping in the very near future to have a seamless process that's what we are aiming for" .
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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