Tech experts wary about healthcare.gov progress

Tech experts wary about healthcare.gov progress

Obamacare sold, Allie, Dec. 2, 2013In the wake of the disastrous healthcare.gov rollout, Americans began to wonder when the federal exchange website would be fixed. Inevitably, it was assumed, the website would have to start working. But when?

The White House announced in October that the website would “work smoothly” by Nov. 30. (It was a shrewd decision to choose Nov. 30. If the website didn’t meet the benchmarks imposed by the White House, it would be announced on a Saturday during a holiday weekend.)

Nov. 30 has come and gone. Does healthcare.gov now “work smoothly for the vast majority of users,” as Obama administration official Jeffrey Zients promised? CalWatchdog.com consulted federal technology experts to find out.

Daniel Castro, a senior analyst at the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, told CalWatchdog.com that it’s difficult to measure success because it “really depends on what the benchmark is.” Castro added that, because the bar has been set so low already, “if the website loads, it feels like a victory.”

There is some clear evidence of improvement. Mike Hettinger of the Software & Information Industry Association pointed to clear signs of progress in the site in the two months since it launched.

“Response time has dropped from eight seconds to one second … and some 400 bugs have been fixed,” he said. “All signs of improvement.”

Castro added that the website was “significantly more stable” and was working 95 percent of the time, up from 43 percent in October.

However, both experts tempered their evaluation of the more positive metrics.

Castro warned that, while the uptime improved, the current amount of time that the system is available “is often considered unacceptable” in the private sector, where anything below 99 percent uptime “would not be very good.”

“And remember, the 95 percent uptime does not include any scheduled maintenance. In addition, the administration did not release how many outstanding bugs remain to be fixed and the severity of these problems.  This is likely a moving target — as one bug is fixed, more might be discovered — but this is something the public should be asking for as it shows how much progress has been made.”

Vulnerable

Hettinger also warned that the website is still vulnerable to problems.

“If it turns out that 50,000 concurrent [users] and 800,000 users per day is a ‘vast majority of users,’ then they have accomplished their goal.  However, if more than 50,000 concurrent and 800,000 per day try to access the site, then we are likely to see additional problems.”

And much of the administration’s focus has been on fixing the “frontend” of the website, where average Americans can see progress. However, there is a whole other aspect to the healthcare.gov website, the “backend.” Insurance companies mainly deal with the backend, where payments are made and the enrollment process is automated. Castro predicted that the backend of the website  “will likely still have bugs that need to be worked out.”

He added, “The administration has more leeway here, since they can deliver this data manually if needed, and it is less of a public relations issue if it is not working properly by their internal deadlines.”

The healthcare.gov site that launched on Oct. 1 was not complete — nor is the one available today. Once error rates decrease and the back end of the website is truly fixed, then the website will be truly complete. However, having a working website is only one component of the law.

Once the website begins working, the question is more simple: Are people using it?

4 comments

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  1. LetitCollapse
    LetitCollapse 2 December, 2013, 14:20

    Let me use a college football analogy here.

    Let’s say your hometeam hasn’t driven the football past the 50 yard line into the opposing team’s territory for 8 straight games. Fumbles, interceptions, penalties, QB sacks, broken plays, etc… always messed it up when the hometeam got close. Finally, in the 9th game the defensive back trips and falls leaving the tight end wide open for a completion down to the opponent’s 25 yard line. No TD but the team and the fans will be bragging on that pass completion to the 25 for the rest of the winless season.

    Coach Obama knows how to make hay while the sun shines. It’s a far cry from the promise of taking the team to the conference championship at the start of the season. But if you got a lemon handy, mix it with water.

    Reply this comment
  2. Queeg
    Queeg 2 December, 2013, 20:19

    The election is over, the voters want free health care……out of Dear Leader’s Stash……..the Supreme Court ruled for socialized medicine……Romney’s 47 % is now over 50% of proud non-producing takers.

    You got it. No hope and lots of change.

    Reply this comment

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