It’s been one full week since the flagship technology portion of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) went live. And since that time, the befuddled beast that is Healthcare.gov has shutdown, crapped out, stalled, and mis-loaded so consistently that its track record for failure is challenged only by Congress.Andrew Couts, “We Paid Over $500 Million for the Omabacare Sites and All We Got Was This Lousy 404 [UPDATED]”, digitaltrends.com , 8 October 2013
Zing. And this, from a guy who claims to be totally in favor of Obamacare.
Couts continues throwing volleys:
The site itself, which apparently underwent major code renovations over the weekend [despite taking more than three years to build], still rejects user logins, fails to load drop-down menus and other crucial components for users that successfully gain entrance, and otherwise prevents uninsured Americans in the 36 states it serves from purchasing healthcare at competitive rates – Healthcare.gov’s primary purpose. The site is so busted that, as of a couple days ago, the number of people that successfully purchased healthcare through it was in the “single digits,” according to the Washington Post.
The reason for this nationwide headache apparently stems from poorly written code, which buckled under the heavy influx of traffic that its engineers and administrators should have seen coming. But the fact that Healthcare.gov can’t do the one job it was built to do isn’t the most infuriating part of this debacle – it’s that we, the taxpayers, seem to have forked up more than $500 million of the federal purse to build the digital equivalent of a rock.
The “poorly written code” he links to, is in my not so humble opinion, a horrifying example of the type of code one might get back from very low-paid outsourcers and consultants, typically in countries on the other side of the world. I’ve seen awful code generated right here in the U.S. of A., mind you, but in my limited outsourcing experience, and with the exception of working with some incredibly smart people in first-world countries (specifically, in Europe and Australia) on open source projects, I have yet to get back code from overseas outsourcers that I would be willing to maintain.
For some context to the numbers, Couts shares the amount of money raised by popular, oft-used, if somewhat less complex, Internet companies. The comparisons aren’t totally apt, as these companies bootstrapped some equity the old-fashioned way (you know, selling stuff), but it does provide a sense of scope.
But for the sake of putting the monstrous amount of money into perspective, here are a few figures to chew on: Facebook, which received its first investment in June 2004, operated for a full six years before surpassing the $500 million mark in June 2010. Twitter, created in 2006, managed to get by with only $360.17 million in total funding until a $400 million boost in 2011. Instagram ginned up just $57.5 million in funding before Facebook bought it for (a staggering) $1 billion last year. And LinkedIn and Spotify, meanwhile, have only raised, respectively, $200 million and $288 million.Ibid.
The $500 million number is called into question by Mark Thompson (“How $55.7 Million Doesn’t Equal $634 Million”), but even $55 million (what Thompson claims has been paid) or $97 million (what Couts says is the initial contract award amount) seem ludicrously high for three years of work building a site that doesn’t function.
UPDATE: Also worth reading: Megan McArdle, “Republicans Didn’t Sabotage Health Exchanges, Obama Did”, Bloomberg.com, 7 Oct 7, 2013.