December 2 2013
Up and Running?
Patrice J. Lee
Today is Cyber Monday. Shopping for clothes, jewelry and electronics is on the minds of millions of Americans, but it’s shopping for healthcare that has the Administration on pins and needles.
The White House has been working overtime for the past month to patch up the error-riddled and broken healthcare.gov website in an effort to meet a self-imposed November 30th deadline.
Before we digested our Thanksgiving turkey the Administration started walking back expectations for what the website would deliver. A spokeswoman for the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which operates the site, noted "November 30th does not represent a relaunch of HealthCare.gov. It is not a magical date. There will be times after November 30th when the site, like any website, does not perform optimally."
But they were still quick to tout the success they’ve achieved in getting a “vast majority” of users on the website and it works.
Politico reports on the Administration’s progress:
The Obamacare website will be able to support more than 800,000 consumers per day, the administration said. And the site is now online more than 90 percent of the time, not including scheduled downtime for maintenance.
These are huge improvements for a site that was up an average of 43 percent of the time in October, crashing frequently, spewing error messages, thwarting millions of people who tried to visit it.
“The bottom line: HealthCare.gov on Dec. 1st is night and day from where it was on Oct. 1st,” Jeff Zients, the management expert steering the repair mission, told reporters Sunday morning.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says it has repaired more than 400 items on its “punch list” of bugs and needed fixes. The agency also said it reduced response times from 8 seconds in late October to less than 1 second and error rates are under 1 percent.
Sounds promising doesn’t it? But the proof is in the pudding. When CNN reporters tried to log on –surprise surprise– it crashed:
GEORGE HOWELL, HOST: We know the first thing you have to do when you go to this website you have to select your state. Is that working?
ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And what's funny is I was talking with Matt, and, yeah, that seemed to work, right, when you logged on. But then came the road blocks. So tell me about what happened, because we're getting another error message here, and it's supposed to be running smoothly. We’re just not seeing that.
MATT SLOANE, CNN MEDICAL PRODUCER: Yeah, so, you know, we've been trying to get into the site since October 1 on and off again. I have to say it did work a lot more smoothly this morning. I got through. I picked my state. I put in all of my information and I got through the whole process in eight minutes. And then it said my status was in progress. So I went to refresh it and I got the error message.
To test the website myself, I logged on this morning and peddled around the site with surprising celerity until I switched to the Spanish version of the site and experienced frozen screens and delays in moving from page to page.
Website glitches and bugs happen, but as we are all now aware of the ObamaCare website has structural issues that a few new web pages and lines of code won’t fix. There is a laundry list of work that still needs to be started to make the website function as it should and they are not minor window dressing:
Still unresolved is the flawed application data being transmitted to insurance companies in the form of so-called 834 forms. Unless these errors are fully fixed, new policyholders could encounter serious problems when they seek to use their coverage.
The White House is also vulnerable when it comes to other parts of the rollout that remain delayed or incomplete.
The online enrollment site for small businesses will not launch until next year, the administration announced this week, and the Spanish-language system has been languishing for months.
A separate, crucial system involving payments to insurance companies also remained under construction as of last month.
Should all of the issues get fixed and the website works, we still should not celebrate. The website is the vehicle to make enact the a fundamentally flawed piece of legislation. That every individual must be forced to have insurance or suffer a penalty is a freedom issue, but it’s necessary to make possible a system that hurls on the shoulders of many the burdens of a few.
And as a wise relative reminded me on Thanksgiving, healthcare “reform” is a misnomer. We don’t have a problem with access as much as misuse or overuse of health services. If each person saw and paid the actual costs of every procedure and exam, usage would probably drop dramatically. ObamaCare does nothing to address this problem with healthcare and others. It simply compounds the problems.