Administration Claims Victory for Making Website Operational
December 1, 2013 - 6:48 am
I believe nothing coming from the the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) about the website. That’s because whatever claims they make will be next to impossible to prove for outsiders.
And those claims are pretty impressive.
“Dramatic progress has been made,” the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) stated in a report released Sunday morning. “[But] there is more work to be done to continue to improve and enhance the website.”
The mixed message highlights the challenge facing the Obama administration as it seeks to ensure that millions can sign up for individual health plans online by the end of March.
HealthCare.gov debuted with serious technical problems on Oct. 1, plunging President Obama into a political firestorm that engulfed the White House for two months.
The question now is whether the system can handle the high volume of user traffic expected in December. Consumers must complete the sign-up process by Dec. 23 in order to obtain plans that begin Jan. 1.
Administration officials also acknowledge that some problems with HealthCare.gov have yet to be fixed. The severity of these issues is unknown, but it is possible that some errors have not yet been discovered.
In its report, CMS touted metrics indicating its progress in shoring up the site. Many of data points had been previously released or alluded to by federal health officials, such as faster page load times and fewer error messages.
According to the document, HealthCare.gov’s repair team has made more than 400 technical fixes to the site since Oct. 1 and has restored the site’s capacity to the originally intended level of 50,000 concurrent users.
Both hardware and software upgrades have made the system much more stable, CMS said, such as improvements to the network and the registration database.
The report contained some technical language but few details about individual bugs that have been addressed. CMS noted that the system is now available above 90 percent of the time, a sign that some users at some times will still be unable to access the system.
The agency’s progress should help tamp down some of the criticism surrounding HealthCare.gov botched rollout, provided the site remains fairly stable in the coming weeks.
Republicans are preparing to use any signs of failure, or anecdotes about user difficulty, to argue that the administration was unprepared to launch the Affordable Care Act’s signature enrollment system
I doubt whether they’ve seen anything close to 50,000 people trying to use the site at the same time so their claim that it’s loading “90% of the time” is hogwash.
But some tech experts said that metric was misleading, given that any claim below a 100% success rate could not be verified.
“It prevents anyone from the outside from contradicting them,” said Jonathan Wu, co-founder of the consumer financial website ValuePenguin.
He told Reuters only those working on the website know whether the 90% figure is accurate.
The only truth to be found in this mess will be seen in the number of people who complete the entire enrollment process — including registration, choosing a plan, getting a subsidy, and, finally, paying their premium. Clearly, HealthCare.gov is incapable of performing all those tasks at present. And the fact that the administration is settling for less is significant. The constant moving of goalposts means that fewer people will make it all the way to the finish line, throwing a wrench into Obamacare’s works.
Considering where they started on October 1, the improvement has been dramatic. But that isn’t saying much at all. To go from not working at all to sometimes working to usually working isn’t good enough. Nobody is going to sit in front of a monitor for an hour or more, dealing with a balky website and hoping against hope that their personal information isn’t being stolen by some crooked Obamacare navigator or hacker.
Eventually, the site will work adequately. That’s what happens when you have unlimited funds and time to get it right. But it remains to be seen if the American people will embrace the exchanges and purchase insurance in numbers that will save Obamacare.