Affordable Care Act Part I: Website Rollout

Website Rollout

A majority of Americans disapprove of President Obama’s signature legislation, and their frustrations have only increased due to the terrible launch of the program. While every side seems to have their own version of events, the disastrous launch of the highlights serious underlying issues with the healthcare mandate.


The Basics

After the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) was enacted in 2009, the President commissioned the Center for Medicaid Services and the Department of Health and Human Services to contract the building of the website. If states did not want to set up their own health exchanges then the federal government was tasked with building a central portal as a default.


As of this year, thirty six states declined to take part in any type of state exchange. Any eligible residents of those states need to use the default federal site to purchase new plans and receive subsidies. The government agencies responsible for the website spent $515 million dollars over three years.


The Problem

The website was supposed to launch on October 1st with minor kinks in usability due to internet traffic expected. In reality, the Canadian tech contractor used by the administration designed a completely inoperable and frozen product.


Finger pointing between the administration and the contractor about why the crash happened consumes much of the political air-time, even while serious issues still plague the rollout. For instance, both the call center representatives and consumers applying on paper must submit information through the same website portal. Limited website functionality has prevented all but a lucky few consumers from applying. Furthermore, there are concerns about the safety of individual health records and personal information. Scam artists are already manipulating the confusion by lurking with false URLs and other phishing hacks to surreptitiously gain access to personal bank and health accounts.


Much time and vast sums of money went into developing the website, and the administration has promised to get it up running by December 1st . While the delay is problematic for the law, given that Americans now have four instead of six months before enrollment closes, it’s hard to say if they can even meet that deadline.


Where we go from Here?

Individual opinions on the healthcare mandate aside, it’s clear government contracting is rife with serious problems. We should be greatly concerned by the millions of dollars spent on a digital dud when a couple tech geeks in their 20’s can do the exact same thing almost for free. The administration failed to effectively manage their most important policy launch, highlighting the need for more focused, critical evaluation of the actions of bureaucrats.

Even with the website up and running, more serious problems are yet to reach the headlines.