By Kuper Jones
The messy implementation of ObamaCare continues with the HealthCare.gov rollout. Pushing criticism aside, the White House tried to convince Americans that the health care website issues were mere “glitches”. Things only got worse. So the Administration’s blame game began. Excuses are plentiful and fingers are pointed in all directions. However, the game finally concluded last week as HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius claimed responsibility for the website debacle. Unfortunately, that does not remedy this calamity nor improve the future situation. Attempting to fix this disaster is only going to rack up a bigger bill for tax payers –on top of the $400 million spent creating it. Gross negligence, poor planning and bureaucrats caused these problems while further proving the point that government can’t effectively invest in IT.
Lack of Security
Originally, HealthCare.gov was not encrypted–the most basic protection for websites containing sensitive information. This vulnerability meant that anyone with a basic understanding of the website code could gain access to accounts on HealthCare.gov. After remaining unencrypted for three weeks, thankfully, the hole was finally plugged. HHS had also authorized the site launch without fully completing a security assessment. HHS’ own memo acknowledges that failing to complete the assessment “constitutes a risk”. The Obama Administration was more focused on following the implementation schedule than ensuring Americans’ sensitive health care information is secured. These snafus question the Administration’s ability and dedication to protect Americans’ health care and financial information from ongoing and future cyber-attacks.
Bureaucrats gave the rollout schedule priority over quality assurance
Not only was the White House warned by contractors that the site was not ready for launch, but they also denied the contractors access to tools to ensure proper function. The website crashed during a full system test two weeks before launch. Contractors said the system needed more testing, but instead of heeding the engineers’ warnings the website launched as scheduled. Sebelius admitted they did not test the site enough. Furthermore, documents signed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Marilyn Tavenner prove that the Obama Administration was well aware that tests were not fully completed prior to the website launch. Again, the administration was more concerned about staying on schedule for implementing their troubled healthcare law instead of producing a quality product.
Fixing HealthCare.gov by November 30th is a longshot
The Obama administration has promised to have the HealthCare.gov website fixed by the end of the month. The so-called “tech surge” includes the “best and brightest” in the IT industry to clean up the mess. It is questionable whether this will make a difference in meeting the November 30th deadline. Bringing in engineers that were not part of building the website and its infrastructure is difficult. It takes weeks or months to learn and understand the coding for a website this complex. Likely, it will be the initial software contractors fixing the problems while the engineers sit and watch.
Negligence and poor planning on this website leaves a lot of work for a short time-frame even with the absurd amount of money to be spent – an estimated $371 million. Government has a bad habit of throwing money at IT without yielding results; add ObamaCare to that list. All things considered, the November 30th promise is going to be very difficult to keep.