ACA implementation problematic

The last month has to have been  difficult for the federal government.

The government shutdown generated widespread anger among Americans toward Congress.

With the passing of that crisis, the public has a new controversy to focus on: the disastrous launch of Healthcare.gov, the website designed to serve citizens under the provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (commonly known as the ACA or “Obamacare”).

Since its launch on Oct. 1, the website has been plagued with technical flaws that persist a month after launch.

Although the White House is taking public steps to fix the problems, the problems have produced a vocal reaction in Congress, and weakened the public’s opinion on the ACA: a Pew poll published on Oct. 21 shows that only 29 percent of Americans think the online healthcare exchanges are working well.

The website has been a costly endeavor. Reuters News Group reports that the total cost for the project reached nearly $292 million in April, a substantial increase from the website’s original projected cost of $93.7 million.

Given the massive cost of the project, it is shocking that it was released in such a broken state.

Even more shocking is the possibility that the Obama administration knew the site was not ready for its scheduled launch.

Although President Obama said on Oct. 4 that problems with the site were due to the massive amount of traffic to the site, CNN reports that they have documents detailing many glaring issues that CGI (the main contractor working on the site) warned the administration about prior to launch.

Despite this, on Oct. 29 Medicaid Chief Marilyn Tavenner said, “No, we had tested the website and we were comfortable with its performance.

“Now, like I said, we knew all along there would be, as with any new website, some individual glitches we would have to work out. But, the volume issue and the creation of account issues was not anticipated and obviously took us by surprise. And did not show up in testing.”

These technical problems are pervasive. Although the Congressional Budget Office estimated that seven million Americans are to be enrolled in ACA health exchanges in 2014, Bloomberg reports that in the first two days only 248 people had successfully enrolled, with 40,000 applicants “idling in a virtual waiting room.” This represents a significant hurdle for the millions of uninsured Americans looking towards the ACA for assistance.

Much of the blame for the website’s failures has fallen upon  Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius who, during a Congressional hearing, apologized for the issues.

“Clearly, I was wrong. We were wrong. We knew that in any big, new, complicated system there would be problems. No one ever imagined the volume of issues and problems that we have had and we must fix it,” she said.

In an interview with HLN News, Vice President Joe Biden was also contrite, as he said, “We assumed that it was up and ready to run. But the good news is although it’s not—and we apologize for that—we are confident by the end of November it’ll be, and there’ll still be plenty of time for people to register and get online.”

It is good that the administration recognizes its mistakes. However, apologies are not enough. This situation demands immediate action to correct the issues with the site.

Fortunately, the administration is actively trying to correct its course. The administration is launching what they call a “tech surge,” bringing in experts from companies such as Google to tackle the tech issues with brute force.

This could be a crucial step toward getting the site back on track.

However, it may not be enough. Speaking to Reuters, MIT’s Howard Anderson said, “What I am seeing is the equivalent of a man-overboard drill. It is the equivalent of having an infinite number of monkeys on an infinite number of code-making machines.”

The tech surge may be a solution that prioritizes quantity over quality.

At this point, however, any approach is worth taking.

President Obama made health care one of the pillars of his election campaign, and it is one of the most pressing issues (both in human and financial terms) facing our country. The administration needs to act decisively and effectively.