Obamacare's rough IT day: Is anyone surprised?

Obamacare's rough IT day: Is anyone surprised?

Summary: The real man-bites-dog story would be if these Affordable Health Act exchanges didn't have glitches on the first day.


Expect little to nothing and you're never disappointed.

And so it was on the first day of state and federal health exchanges as the Affordable Health Act---Obamacare---kicked off Oct. 1. Sites related to health exchanges fell over on day one. Folks couldn't create accounts. Error messages were abundant. Stories about IT troubles were everywhere. In fact, the larger man-bites-dog story would be if these exchanges didn't have glitches.

The key thing to note here is that these high-profile information technology failures didn't spark a lot of outrage. Why? I think few of us really expected these sites and exchanges to work on day one anyway.



Welcome to the art of low expectations and the public's tolerance for IT failures. If the Federal Aviation Administration systems crashed there would be outrage. If the IRS failed on April 15, there would be outrage. Obamacare? Meh.

More: President Obama forgets to renew SSL certificate | America offline: Congress bluescreens entire gov't

Let's get real: From an IT perspective it was clear these exchanges were going to be a disaster.

  • Insurers, the government and states have to sync databases that typically don't communicate with each other well.
  • The project is largely dependent on the Federal government, which has a poor record of delivering IT implementations on time and on budget. You can spend a lifetime reading General Accountability Office reports on IT disasters.
  • The Oct. 1 launch is a beta at best. You may want to consider these networked exchanges to be more alpha if anything.
  • Legacy systems abound.

What's going to be interesting going forward is determining when the general public really cares about IT failures. Obamacare may be an interesting test case, but won't provide anything definitive. The effort is so politically charged that a sizeable chunk of the population will cheer if these exchanges never work.

Topics: Health, Enterprise Software, Government

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  • Government can't do much right

    In the end this will be another program full of corruption and abuse and its hard to believe some will not ever understand this. Government cannot properly manage any kind of large entitlement and its been proven time and time again. You thought private insurance was bad. Just wait a while until this Health care act gets going. My only question is why is the GOP making themselves out the bad guy by shutting down government. Obama care will prove itself unworthy down the road and I think they need to let it shoot itself in the foot. Having all these issues on the first day of applying is just another case of improper management and planning. Yet you want to turn your health care over to this kind of management?
    • They are doing this

      The GOP is doing this for one reason only: they fear that Obamacare will work as promised. And why wouldn't it? We have a laboratory of sorts in Massachusetts, where the law has delivered nearly universal health insurance coverage over the last 7 years to the benefit and approval of the vast majority of that state's citizenry.

      Here's my prediction: 10 years from now, not only will the law not be controversial, but Republicans will try to take what credit they can for it by pointing to the example of Massachusetts. And they will insist that it is left wing media bias to refer to the program as Obamacare.
      • Since you went political...

        Many principled people can disagree about little and big things.

        The US government established a set of unalienable rights, granted by our creator, among them was life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. On all these fronts, governments responsibility was to not interfere.

        If the NRA can get enough candidates to suggest that the public would be well served if everyone was armed, as in it would lower national security, police and other costs, should we then force everyone to purchase a gun, or be fined for it?

        The principle is the issue, yes there is politics on BOTH sides, but the principle stated by the POTUS is that it is a human right to force another person to sacrifice their property (money, goods & services) so that someone else may be guaranteed health INSURANCE NOT CARE.

        You might see that as well justified, many disagree. To diminish them because you disagree simply demonstrates your ACTUAL human right to decide for yourself about an issue, sadly, those you disagree with no longer have that right.
        • Arms purchase mandate?

          In fact, back in the musket-and-sword days, all of the newly independent States DID require all healthy, landowning adult males (and possibly financially independent business owners in the cities) to own muskets and train periodically with their local militia. This was the nation's first defense against invasion, AND in the states with lots of slaves (ALL the states allowed slavery, but they were not used en masse in the northern states), also to be part of posses to round up escaped slaves.

          The days when government was seen only as a non-interferer, rather than a protector, of individual rights, ended with the Civil War. Eleven of the states tried to secede from the union over THEIR "right" to DENY RIGHTS to their neighbors. The Union Army, in addition to reunifying the nation politically, had an additional mission, to PROTECT former slaves from their OWN STATE governments who wanted to re-enslave them (and in a practical sense, actually SUCCEEDED until 1965).

          The fact is that your freedom is not ONLY threatened by federal power; it may be threatened by the STATE, the COUNTY (think of corrupt boss-run counties), the CITY, a CHURCH (to the extent that it can influence, or "borrow power from," some governmental authority), a TERRORIST group like the KKK, or a BUSINESS OWNER (person or corporation) that acquires enough economic power to become a de facto "government" but not accountable to the PUBLIC, only its shareholders, via its board of directors.

          The founders did not see these OTHER threats to liberty, since they had removed the power of the King of England, and "disestablished" the Church of England, and since the federal government was new, and the degree of control the people would have over it was not yet certain, they concentrated on protecting the states and the citizens from the federal government.

          When it comes to health care, human compassion forces medical providers to do SOMETHING to help people with EMERGENCIES, but this is not the most efficient way to provide care. The best way to ensure that the right to keep living through a disease is not denied by lack of money (you DO agree with the OBJECTIVE, I hope) would be to use tax money to pay for medical treatment directly, but failing that, Obamacare was designed so that (a) everyone HAS insurance, if possible, (b) the insurance pool includes a MIX of healthy people who MAY need it (but probably won't any time soon) and people who ALREADY need medical assistance to stay in as good a health as possible.

          Just as people who insist on their right to ride motorcycles without helmets (we call them organ donors) incur emergency costs on everyone else, people who COULD get insurance, and COULD afford it, but CHOOSE not to get it, will to some extent incur emergency costs on everyone else, just as those who currently CANNOT get it incur those costs already.

          The only way to make insurance affordable to the people who AGREE THAT THEY NEED IT, AND WANT IT, is to include those who CANNOT SEE WHERE THEY MIGHT NEED IT in the pool. Obamacare is a way to do that; not as simple and easy as a Medicare card for everyone, but a start. The old system causes 45,000 deaths per year that could have been prevented but for the lack of SOME source of money to pay for the treatment. Are those people's lives outweighed by your right to go without insurance, considering that ONE OF THOSE MAY BE YOU at some time in the future?

          There is no inherent difference in competence between government and private businesses, only a difference in motivation. Government is responsible for keeping the peace, protecting the rights of all against violation by OTHERS, not only by government itself, and helping all citizens to build a prosperous society together, and its shareholders are ALL the voting citizens. Private businesses are only responsible for shareholder profits, and they can pick and choose their customers even when rejecting a customer effectively kills that customers ... at least until Obamacare is fully in effect. This makes private businesses APPEAR to be better managed, but they are managed by people the same as government is.

          How well would we have fought World War Two if the army had been "outsourced" to, say, Ford, which built many of the tanks and other military hardware? What if they also recruited the armed forces, rather than having them controlled by the NATION? In order to improve their profit margin, they would have negotiated peace terms on the Axis nations and left them in power, at least until the next time those nations decided to break those peace terms.
          • Breaking Bad Would Not Have Happened With Obamacare

            Walt White would have had all his medical expenses cared for.

            Well, maybe a bit of social security would have helped this. He needed to be a tad enterprising to look after the future needs of his family as well.
          • Not really

            Walt would have had insurance, but would have been denied care by the death panel.
        • LOL

          LOL, so I'm the one who "went political."

          That's funny.
      • Business Owners suffer

        Do you have any idea what this does to mid sized (50-99 employees) companies, the amount of money that this is going to cost will drastically hurt their profitability, at will have a very negative trickle down effect. You need to look at this from a broader perspective and not just the personal benefit some people will receive.
        • Nonsense

          Do you? I highly doubt it. your contention is based on a number of conjectures that simply do not pan out mathematically.
          Wanna bet?
          Seriously, do you?
          • Uh

            Actually - if you had been better informed - you would have seen many stories about businesses laying off people or reducing their hours to comply with Obamacare.

            So epconner is talking about actual life, not mathematical conjecture.

            Also, mathematically, O-care will not work unless millions of healthy people who don't need it sign up and bear the brunt of the cost for the sick.
    • Oh please

      We're all in IT. You ever have a rough launch? I thought so.
    • any kind of large entitlement ???

      Entitlement? How absurd! The insurance is not free and everyone has to pay for them. No one is entitled to the insurance, they have to be qualified!

      "My only question is why is the GOP making themselves out the bad guy by shutting down government." -- Simple, they don't want the general public to have affordable insurance while they all have great insurance plans themselves.
      • Actually

        Have you looked at the plans? Apparently not, I don't call a minimum of $250 per month affordable care.

        The bottom line is the average American really only needs catastrophic insurance. Think about this, do you buy insurance on your car that covers all of the maintenance and repairs whenever ANYTHING goes wrong, your fault or not? No, you buy insurance with a deductible per incident. You are saying that anything under that dollar amount I will take care of myself, anything over that and I can file a claim and have you take care of it.

        Why shouldn't healthcare work the same way? Let's say you know you can afford up to $1,000 per incident and be ok financially. Why not be able to buy insurance and say I will take care of my maintenance (checkups, etc.) my self, but if the bill is over $1,000, I want the insurance to cover it? It would reduce healthcare costs considerably, as now the doctors simply charge for routine office visits when they are made and not send out bills to insurance companies that may fight them. Makes for a lot less paperwork as well.

        The problem is that Congress is exempted from Obamacare (which is something the Democrats pushed for).

        And yes, there should be some sort of system setup for those with preexisting conditions and others that cannot get insurance, but this system does NOT work.
        • Huh?

          The point of requiring everyone to buy insurance is to bring down the premiums overall, so that there aren't people stranded with bills that are obscenely large. While a young, healthy person can probably get by with just paying out of pocket for check ups and whatnot, this is not a feasible solution for many Americans.

          "The problem is that Congress is exempted from Obamacare (which is something the Democrats pushed for)."

          You clearly don't understand how the ACA works. By forcing congress into the Obamacare system, you would actually make them a special case.

          • Two points

            The point of requiring everyone to buy insurance is also so that insurers can be required to cover individuals with pre-existing conditions. Without the individual mandate consumers would game the system, not buying insurance and not paying into the insurance pool until they become ill. That is an unworkable system from an economic standpoint.
        • You are leaving out

          a great many people that cannot afford the deductibles and copays, but need the treatment. For example, a child who uses up his parents' LIFETIME MAXIMUM benefit just BEING BORN; someone who becomes to old to use his parents' insurance but cannot find a JOB WITH INSURANCE (they have been disappearing for several years) and cannot find insurance on his own.

          The auto repair analogy fails because, in the worst case, you sell your car and ride the bus if you cannot afford the first $1000 to fix it, and you can always WAIT and get it fixed when you save up that $1000, riding the bus in the meantime; but you cannot just "put your BODY up on blocks in your yard" until you can raise the first $1000 or whatever to get it fixed. That is called DEATH.
        • Really?

          This is a site where IT people visit and we should all understand what preventative maintenance really is. You can visit the doctor for a few thousand dollars a year to prevent a cost of several thousand down the road. Catching something early is always cheaper that catching something when it is too late. The reason why health care is so expensive is people don't visit the doctor often enough or their existing plans don't cover certain visits. We have had a similar law in MA for years and I can't complain.
      • "they don't want the general public to have affordable insurance" - What?

        You know this is nonsense, right? It's like you wanted to quote one of MSNBC's talking points, but then stopped halfway.
    • The excahnge is just to buy votes

      with HEAVILY subusidized plans, anyone with one brain cell knows you can call any insurance company in your state and get a plan BEFORE obamacare.
      • Sure - Call and be refused

        Sorry @everssO2 (he said politely), but you really need to find out some facts about the ACA. You certainly could call any insurer today and be refused if (a) you had a preexisting condition, (b) you were in your mid-20's and wanted to continue under your parents' plan. Plans under the ACA are NOT "heavily subsidized" - in fact, past subsidies are being reduced (with Medicare Part C - MAP's gradually losing their subsidies). The ACA also creates a single free market in health insurance, which will ultimately increase sales for insurance companies, while limiting the degree to which they can profit from (and cherry pick) their clients. And most important, it lowers health insurance costs overall (found in every study of same) by gradually getting rid of all the free riders we currently have.
        As for the IT fail, of course it is an issue but since all this stuff is being done by private contractors, it isn't really a reflection on the government. In fact, the amount of interest which swamped servers is encouraging. I've seen plenty of new web sites crash in the same way in the private sector. I am about to experience another such introduction a week from today -- the last time this corporation did an overhaul of just one key segment of its customer web site, it crashed, had to be pulled within a day, and it was almost a year before it finally got running per specs. Going out on an IT limb, I predict that ACA exchange web sites will be working sooner than that.