Has Obamacare Been Rescued by the Administration’s ‘Tech Surge’? Don’t Bet On It

Is Obamacare back in action? For the last two
months, Healthcare.gov, the federally run insurance portal at the
heart of the law, has experienced numerous technical troubles. The
administration vowed to fix those problems by the end of November,
and today, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
announced that it had met the goal of making sure that the site
“worked smoothly” for the “vast majority of users.”

In a conference call this morning, a spokesperson for HHS

, “we believe we have met that goal.” A
six-page progress report
released by the administration this
morning touts technical progress as well as managerial
improvements, declaring that the team making the improvements is
now “operating with private sector velocity and efficiency.”

Anyone else catch the irony there? Set up a vast,
government-managed tech operation, watch it fail—and then, as it
attempts to reboot itself, boast of private-sector quality
work?  (Also, let’s not forget that the original failed work
was in fact done by private contractors working under the
managerial bumbling
of the federal health bureaucracy.)

So it’s all fixed, and Obamacare’s going to be great, right? Not
so fast. The White House’s
stated goal
of improving the website so that 80 percent of
users can get all the way through the system still means that one
in five users won’t make it through the digital gauntlet. It also
claims that the site is stable and accessible 90 percent of the
time, a figure it only gets by excluding the hours of scheduled
maintenance it undergoes each day.

And that’s if the website even works as well as the
administration says it’s supposed to. Which is, at best, a very big
to The Washington Post, some progress has
been made, but the techies and bureaucrats attempting to patch
together the site have not fully met their own internal goals for
performance yet. That would certainly fit the pattern. All
throughout the development of the online insurance exchange system,
the administration has claimed that Obamacare’s tech is working, or
just about to work—but its promises have repeatedly been proven

Given its history, the administration’s claims have to be taken
with a cargo ship full of salt—especially since there’s no good way
to independently confirm that the website is working as well as the
administration claims. You just have to
take their word for it

Even if the website appears to be working on the user end,
there’s no guarantee that less visible functions are performing
adequately. Insurers have been reporting dropped or incorrectly
transmitted enrollment data since the exchanges launched. And

to The New York Times, the repair team
prioritized front-end fixes for consumers over accurate
insurance-company connections. So the site might appear to be
working just fine, until you try to actually use the insurance that
you thought you purchased. 

These are just the known problems. There are plenty more
opportunities for technical troubles down the line, particularly
because when administration officials say the website is working
better, they mean the portion of the website that’s actually been
built. Yet by the reckoning of a senior Obamacare tech official,

some 30 to 40 percent of the exchange functionality
has yet to
been constructed, including some of the crucial insurer payment
systems. (“It’s not built, let alone tested,” one insurance
industry official
The Washington Post.”) So the best possible
scenario here is that the 70 percent of the site that’s been built
works for about 80 percent of the people who want to use

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/02/has-obamacare-been-rescued-by-the-admini

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