Young CA programmers build better health care website

Young CA programmers build better health care website

Healthsherpa

On Tuesday, Quinnipiac University released a poll indicating that President Obama’s approval rating had hit an all-time low. He has lost the faith of a majority of voters on issues ranging from the budget to healthcare. To put it in perspective, Obama has roughly the same support that George W. Bush did at the same point in his presidency. Obama’s foes can be attributed to many factors. But his troubles began with the botched rollout of the federal healthcare exchange website.

Although other issues with the law—particularly Obama’s false statement that all consumers would be able to keep their insurance plans if they liked them—have taken center stage, it all began with the botched rollout of the website. Toward the end of October, the White House promised that the website would “work smoothly” by the end of November. The administration is already beginning to walk back on its self-imposed end-of-November deadline:

On Friday, the man tasked with the digital fixes said the site “remains a long way from where it needs to be” as more and more problems emerge.

“As we put new fixes in, volume is increasing, exposing new storage capacity and software application issues,” Jeff Zients told reporters on a conference call.

And at Tuesday’s White House Press Briefing, Press Secretary Jay Carney again said there was “more work to be done” on repairing HealthCare.gov.

Carney, along with Zients and other administration officials, have repeatedly said the November 30 deadline is to get the health care website working for a “vast majority” of Americans looking to enroll in the Obamacare exchanges.

Fixed

While the Obama administration struggles to fix the website, three 20-year-old programmers from San Francisco have already developed their own website that has already fixed a major problem with the government’s page.

From CBS News:

With a few late nights, Ning Liang, George Kalogeropoulos and Michael Wasser built “thehealthsherpa.com,” a two-week-old website that solves one of the biggest problems with the government’s site.

“They got it completely backwards in terms of what people want up front,” said Liang. He added: “They want prices and benefits, so that they could make the decision.”

Liang showed CBS News how it worked. “You come to our website and you put in your zip code — in this case a California zip code. You hit ‘find plans,’ and you immediately see the exchange plans that are available for that zip code.”

The programmers explained how they were able to make the website:

Using information buried in the government’s own website built by high-priced government contractors, they found a simpler way to present it to users.

“That’s the great thing about having such a small team,” said Kalogeropoulos. “You sit around a table and say, ‘Okay, how does this work?’ There’s no coordination meetings, there’s no planning sessions. It’s like, ‘Well, let’s read the document and let’s implement this.'”

And they’re also able to update it frequently:

And the features keep on coming. CBS News looked at the team’s website Thursday and pointed out that the tax subsidy wasn’t in there, which is supposed to be one of the most complicated parts of the HealthCare.gov site. But as Liang explained: “Yes, we added this last night…the subsidy calculation is fairly complicated, but it wasn’t too bad.”

You can’t actually enroll on the HealthSherpa site, but they do provide contact information for companies offering the plans. Users who find a plan they like can go directly to the insurance companies without ever using HealthCare.gov.

How?

The question then becomes: How was a small team without much experience able to produce a website that had—in some ways—better functionality than the government website, which cost hundreds of millions of dollars? Most observers, and the president himself, have pointed to the broken federal procurement system.

The Wall Street Journal explains:

Today, any company looking to work with the government must navigate an obstacle course of niggling, outdated regulations and arbitrary-seeming requirements. For instance, your technology must be Y2K-compliant just to get in the door. The process locks out all but a tiny handful of full-time contractors—companies who also happen to be big federal lobbyists. (Note how CGI Group Inc., which won the largest contract to build Healthcare.gov, lobbied on behalf of the health-care law.)

And there’s another problem: the entire project was run by bureaucrats who simply don’t understand IT. Three 20-year-olds with freedom can act a lot faster than an army of programmers constrained by federal politics and procedures.

8 comments

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  1. LetitCollapse
    LetitCollapse 13 November, 2013, 11:31

    This is what happens when the Fed government, under Obama’s direction, awards a no-bid contract to a Canadian IT company that had a history of flubbing up a Canadian government’s online system to design an American government sign-up system for ObamaCare, and that has a high-ranking exec on staff who happens to be an old college chum of Michelle Obama’s.

    Can you say “train wreck in motion”?

    I warned everybody I could back in 2008. I did my part.

    Reply this comment
  2. Rex the Wonderdog!
    Rex the Wonderdog! 13 November, 2013, 16:07

    Unbelievable. Three 20 y/o over a weekend fix the problems for free. Gov. It sucks eggs

    Reply this comment
  3. Queeg
    Queeg 13 November, 2013, 16:55

    Collapse

    Most prophets through history never were listened to and they never made a honest dollar….don’t buck history and consensus conventions….

    Or can we vote on CWD to make you our beloved Shaman?

    Reply this comment
  4. Dan Jones
    Dan Jones 13 November, 2013, 19:30

    The government site is more about collecting your personal information rather than helping you to get good health care. All gov’ment agencies are NSA 24/7. It’s not about helping you, it’s about controlling you.

    Reply this comment
    • Rex the Wonderdog!
      Rex the Wonderdog! 17 November, 2013, 13:11

      I actually agree with Dan, the amount of info the gov requires is off the hook. Thumb prints for a drivers license?????? Please.

      Reply this comment
  5. Paul Taylor
    Paul Taylor 18 November, 2013, 08:52

    President Barack Obama is now famous – if not infamous – for rhetorical illusion. He comes off as a partisan and petulant political pundit rather than a principled president. He and his insurgent progressives have finally over drawn on their indulgent progressive media’s trust accounts.

    Every issue that might reflect badly upon Obama’s regime finds him pleading bewildered ignorance – Benghazi slaughters, NSA surveillance, IRS partisanship, Mexican gun running, Justice Department biases, and lately, the Obama Care legacy launch and lie that “if you like your health insurance, premiums and doctor, you can keep them.” Obama is the illusive, “Houdini” political escape artist; surviving on plausible deniability of involvement while posing in empty “take responsibility” rhetoric.

    The utopians that populate the Obama Administration have sold America on a deluge of theories for government good intentions, but leave us with the chaos of unintended consequences – stagnated economy, unprecedented racial and social division, lost international leadership, populist promises un-kept. The recent decades of progressive government mandates have sought to grow government to today’s breaking point – regulatory mandate upon regulatory mandate such that no entity could understand, much less enforce or benefit from, the tangle of out-of-control government.

    Reply this comment
  6. LetitCollapse
    LetitCollapse 18 November, 2013, 15:12

    Anyone with a conscience who voted for Obama in 2012 should apologize to the rest of the nation. 2008? For that year I will give them a pass since Obama’s a 1st class slick hustler and conned them. The average voter is not very street wise and was easily conned, especially with all the false promises. But no excuses for 2012. Apologies are in order. Who’s the first one on these boards to man-up?

    Reply this comment
    • John Seiler
      John Seiler 18 November, 2013, 15:44

      You’re forgetting that Insane McCain was on the ticket. If he had won, by now we’d have 10,000 nuclear craters across the USA.

      Reply this comment

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