“Just Like Amazon”
October 28, 2013
Obama promised the nation that the new website to sign up for health insurance would work “just like Amazon.” That’s strange. The last time I was on the Amazon website, I was able to log in under my account, find the book I wanted, see the exact price of the book, order the book, and be told when it would be delivered; and it arrived right on time.
The great majority of people who have tried to use the Obamacare site haven’t even been able to open an account, find out how much their health insurance is going to cost or fill out an application. And the insurance companies tell us that, of the few actual enrollments that have occurred, most contained faulty information generated by the website.
Obama tells us that “20 million people visited the website,” and that is what caused the problems. Many thousands of people tried 10 to 20 times to use the site. He is counting each of those attempts as a unique person – a purposeful lie. One expert on websites who has reviewed the data says that the site crashed after only about 2,000 visits, a tiny fraction of the 7 million people the administration says must sign up to make Obamacare work.
This column is not about Obamacare itself – it is about the disastrous rollout of the primary method to access health insurance – the website. It is also about the real reason it failed. (Note: It’s not what you think.)
Here are some key points to consider:
THE OCTOBER 1 DEADLINE WAS ARTIFICIAL
If you actually read the Obamacare bill you will see that, repeatedly, the Secretary of HHS (Health and Human Services) “shall” issue rules and make various decisions. One of those items included the rollout date of the website. So Katherine Sebelius lied when she stated that “the law” required her to open the website on October 1. It was her call then that after more than three years of development, the site was ready to be open for business.
THE SITE WAS BUILT USING 10-YEAR-OLD TECHNOLOGY
The Wall Street Journal’s technical experts did a major article on HealthCare.gov. They said the site was poorly designed using decade-old technology. The government’s answer? "It's fast, built in static HTML, completely scalable and secure," said Bryan Sivak, chief technology officer of HHS, in an interview. (See LINK below.) But that is akin to saying that this article was written with sentences. HTML is the format in which information is sent to your web browser. There is much more behind the scenes. The programming necessary to process requests, store data, and interact with other government databases and insurance companies CANNOT be done with HTML. As the chief technology officer of HHS, it would be much more reassuring if Mr. Siyak told us a bit about what’s really going on instead of making a statement equivalent to: “This car has an engine in it just like the Model T did!”
IT MAKES YOU “APPLY” BEFORE YOU CAN LEARN ANYTHING
When you go to a website to buy something, they don’t initially present you with an application to fill out, nor do they require you to give up all of your personal information, without having given you information first. They tell you what they have to offer and what it costs. Then after the ability to make informed choices, if you decide to purchase, it is then they ask for your information. With typical government arrogance the Obamacare site requires people to be sheep: “Tell us everything, and then we’ll tell you something.” Hundreds of thousands of people have abandoned their attempts to use the website because of security concerns about their private information.
NO PROPER TESTING WAS DONE
One of the contractors who built the site testified before Congress that “end to end testing” of the site hadn’t begun until “a few days before the rollout,” on October 1st. In today’s world of software development, on a project of this proportion, a totally separate group of quality assurance professionals would be tasked with building scenarios, software, and test groups to exercise, record, and report on every single aspect of the system’s performance. They would have used hundreds of computers to simulate millions of users. And they certainly would not have depended on the builders and some people at HHS to do a bit of last minute testing. Proper testing by others is necessary for the same reason that smart authors don’t try to proofread their own writing; you can’t catch your own mistakes, because you made them. According to experts, “Beta” testing by actual consumers should have started at least six months before the rollout. (See LINK below.) The elementary testing that actually WAS performed was not completed before the site went live.
THE GUY WHO BROKE IT HAS BEEN HIRED TO FIX IT
We’re being told by the government that the website is so broken that it will be December before it’s functional. A software contractor has been hired to lead the effort to replace or repair the dozens of non-functioning components. Amazingly, they hired the same contractor who designed two of the major components of the failed website. If a builder botched the construction of your new home so badly that you couldn’t live in it, would you even consider paying him more money to try to fix it?
I contacted a web design expert, Mike Kelly, of iNotifyInc.com for an expert’s opinion. Full disclosure: Mike is the Technical Director of the Conservative Truth website. He had some very interesting insights after just a 30 second look at the HealthCare.gov home page:
1) Every page view and every mouse click is being tracked by Google.
2) The site uses a third party service for statistics and website tracking.
3) It is using a user tracking and ad generation site (Optimizly.com), that builds and utilizes user profiles to display ads and sell user information to third parties.
4) The site’s main uptime monitoring tool is on a server in SWEDEN (Pingdom.com).
Obviously each of these facts raises important security concerns regarding the sensitive information the site forces you to disclose.
He had some other important observations, as well:
“For the money they spent (reportedly $400+ Million) it is outrageous that they didn't build regression, component and server level load testing into it - and test the heck out of the site. On projects in the $1 - $5 Million range we build whole suites of custom testing tools that simulate 10 to 100 times the expected load. It doesn't look like any of the standard approaches to building big systems were used; or if they were, they were so poorly executed as to be useless."
“Also, I find it curious that Obama said in his speech that people can call into the call center to sign up instead of going to the website. On any system I have ever seen the call center has a custom interface, but it connects to EXACTLY the same back-end systems. If that is the case, they are saying that the problem is only with the web interface, which is just not possible, because that is well known, easily tested and easily fixed technology. So I believe they are lying about their ability to do it by phone.”
There are 500 MILLION lines of code on the site, which is amazingly high for a site of this type. A New York Times technical expert says that at least 5 million lines will have to be re-written. This is probably due to the fact that, instead of using one design firm that controlled all aspects of the project, they used dozens of contractors.
To put it in building construction terms, instead of hiring a General Contractor to supervise a massive building project, they hired a bunch of sub-contractors. Then the government played General Contactor itself, trying to coordinate the activities of all the subs. Imagine what would happen if you had no building experience, and you had to oversee the activities of a bunch of plumbers, electricians and carpenters. It would be a disaster – just as HealthCare.gov has been.
Only 7% of Americans think the website launch went well. Obviously the 93% who find it appalling includes many ticked-off Democrat Liberals.
I found one thing Obama said in his speech fascinating. He stated that the call centers include people who can answer consumer questions in 150 languages! If they can get that together, why couldn't they get competent design people to build the website?
I have heard a number of experts state that the reason the website is so deplorable is because Obama hired political cronies and rewarded them with lucrative contracts to build the site. He has certainly paid off political operatives this way in the past. Might he have done so with this website too?
But I fear the real reason the website has failed is due to something far more sinister.
CBS, normally a major Obama supporter, reported this week on the websites that ARE working – the ones built by the states that decided to run their own Health Care Exchanges. These are mainly Republican states that believed the federal Exchange system (which mainly covers the Democrat states that trust the government) would be a dismal failure.
The frightening information they reported was that anywhere from 87% to 100% of the people who enrolled on these sites did NOT buy private health insurance (the supposed purpose of the exchanges). They used the sites to enroll in Medicaid, which is free government insurance.
This means two things. The White House acknowledges that at least 7 million healthy young Americans MUST sign up for expensive health insurance that they don’t need, in order to pay for the sick people that are being enrolled. Instead of this happening, the great majority of the people who have enrolled so far are only going to add to the costs the government has to pay – which will increase taxes and health care costs for the rest of us.
I believe it means something else, as well. Regardless of whatever opinion you may have of him, you can’t say Obama is stupid. It is inconceivable to me that he wouldn’t have anticipated this result. I did, and I don’t have access to all the information he does.
So why did he allow such a train wreck (in the terms of a prominent Democrat who authored the Obamacare law) to occur? Could it be that he wants the system to fail?
Think about this. After three years of his propaganda millions of people are already counting on cheap insurance that in many cases will have to pay out hundreds of times what they pay in, because of their expensive pre-existing conditions. Parents already expect that their children will be covered under their policies through age 26. And low-income people have been promised free health care.
Do you think they will give up any of these freebies? Think back. Have you ever seen the government give anything that it was able to take back?
So Obama has promised trillions of dollars' worth of benefits that we, the people, are now responsible to pay. He has basically admitted that he can pay for it by forcing healthy young people to pay for the costs of older sick people. If they refuse, he will fine them.
Well, so far they’re refusing – in droves. Most young people don’t have, don’t need – and don’t want – health insurance. Most will pay the $95 fine rather than paying $1,000 or more for insurance that Obama is unconstitutionally coercing them to buy.
If that doesn’t change – very quickly – Obamacare will collapse from its own weight. But if that happens, Obamacare will not simply go away. Far from it.
Obama has made no secret of the fact that his real objective has always been for the government to run every aspect of health care. He wants to get rid of private health insurance. He wants all doctors and hospitals to be under government control. Obamacare has always been a stepping stone to “single payer” health care.
If Obamacare falls apart after people are hooked on all its freebies, we will never be able to unscramble the eggs. So it is in Obama’s real interest for it to fall apart. Then he can simply raise taxes to cover the costs. And the U.S. will be a true Socialist nation in the European mold.
When I ran this article past Mike Kelly to check it for accuracy, he had a few very insightful observations about my premise that the White House wants Obamacare to fail after Americans are addicted to its freebies, so that it can force us into nationalized health care. Follow Mike's logic:
1) The state exchanges are functioning well at a fraction of the cost of HealthCare.gov, after adjusting for the number of potential site visitors. Some estimates of the total cost of the site over time run as high as a Billion dollars.
2) One of the problems that hasn't gotten much publicity yet is that the government system can't send complete and accurate information to the insurance companies. Without accurate information, they can't issue policies. But the administration is already blaming the insurance companies for its own failures.
3) What if they have used the extra hundreds of millions of dollars to build a system to support an actual government-managed health insurance scheme (full "single payer")? What if they are just waiting for the chance to say, "We have spent all this money, but the big health insurance companies that want this to fail are not cooperating with us?"
4) They could then force a non-electronic data exchange on the insurance companies, driving their costs through the roof. Then, six months from now when it is all falling apart, Obama can say, "This isn't working because the big market capitalists are sabotaging it. They're forcing us to take it over. But this will actually be good because health care will be cheaper now that the evil insurance companies are not making their profits."
Friends, this is not at all far-fetched. We have already seen Obama & Sebelius lay the groundwork for a takeover with their persistent whining that "big business" and "big insurance companies" want Obamacare to fail. Obama already says that Obamacare is the most significant achievement of his presidency. What if he can become the Liberal hero who forced government-controlled health care on America?
Our only hope is to follow the lead of Ted Cruz and the other patriots who are working to dismantle Obamacare. If we allow the monster to be born, we will never be able to slay it.
Wall Street Journal: Design Defects Cripple Health-Care Website
Software Expert: OC Website Cost Hundreds of Times What It Should
HHS Chief Technology Officer Interview
Contractors Blame Government for ObamaCare Website
Wall Street Journal: Health Website Security Questions
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