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Obamacare website - what went wrong?

James Hancock
on
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Last Modified: 2013-11-20
From a non political perspective only,
what went wrong with the Obamacare website?

SQL and web app connectivity is pretty commonplace. - and can do massively multi-user activity?

What went wrong?
Did they hire a bunch of amateurs ?

They couldn't even do log in.
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Juan OcasioContinuous Process Improvement Lead
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Commented:
They paid 600MM for the site. Enough said.

But from a programming perspective, I can only assume they did not have senior developers on the task, QA throughout the development, milestone achievements, or use case scenarios developed and tested.
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Commented:
They paid all that money and the company who developed the site says they were still underfunded.  Where did that money actually go?

In addition to what jocasio said, there should have been stress testing done on the system, an EVSSL cert used, technical support and customer support staff with actual knowledge of the services, and a lookup system for patient identification verification.

None of these appeared to exist on the site.  I wouldn't be surprised if the server wasn't even clustered, it was probably using an old Pentium 4 machine with 512 MB ram that they paid $100,000 for.

Commented:
When you're more worried about the deadline than the functionality.... failure is imminent.
Juan OcasioContinuous Process Improvement Lead
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Commented:
But  jsdray, they have over two years to develop it.  It goes way beyond just having a deadline. 600MM is an awful lot of money for what was developed.  Obviously, we can't see the backend, but the UI is horrendous.  Having to navigate several screens for what could have been put on one screen just doesn't make sense.
Scott FellDeveloper
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Commented:
All that can be done here is speculate.  

>When you're more worried about the deadline than the functionality.... failure is imminent.
From what was said, it sounded like the functionality changed at the last minute.  If you ever had a client that changed their mind after you have been over everything and went from point A to point B via a specific route, then they changed to go to point C, it is not a small thing.  

I also read the specs from the very beginning where open.  One of the vendors that worked on it also worked on medicare.gov and many other govt sites.   It was not like they don't know what they were doing, but they will probably be given the blame.   It it is true about last minute changes but sticking to a deadline, that is probably the answer.
James HancockSelf Employed

Author

Commented:
What is a blind link?
James HancockSelf Employed

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Commented:
Was this reported 2 u? Not all posts can be monitored!
Thx

Commented:
ok..no problem, but this is the first I heard of that... I was posting valid information links...  would have been nice to see this explanation sooner.  I've lost out on credit as well as passing on valid information....   here's what I posted that was deleted...

http://www.forbes.com/sites/theapothecary/2013/10/14/obamacares-website-is-crashing-because-it-doesnt-want-you-to-know-health-plans-true-costs/


is that better?

Commented:
Not all deletions were even being posted....  had me pulling out my hair trying to figure out what was going on!
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Commented:
I appreciate the explanation netminder, but I think you singled me out and just started deleting everything I posted in that fashion without giving it a second look to see that it actually was valid information.  Sometimes the jibber jabber isn't necessary and the link speaks for itself.   This hurts the question author as well as the "expert" trying to assist.    I think it's a bad policy change.
last poster thought my link was "exactly on point"
Scott FellDeveloper
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Commented:
As both expert and seeker, I don't see any comparison between a post that is just a link  http:Q_28278593.html#a39604776 and an excellent explanation http:Q_28278593.html#a39605289 based on the article.  I think many news media links are good only for a specific time period and Ray's post will always be on EE.  Plus it is obvious from his words that Ray knows is stuff.

Commented:
I think EE is now being managed by the same folks who brought you healthcare . gov
I've been an EE member for almost 10 years... may be time to say goodbye

Commented:
notice I didn't use a blind link there....
James HancockSelf Employed
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This one is on us!
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Commented:
So, @Slick812, you're saying it wasn't worth $500,000,000 ?

Commented:
So, @Slick812, you're saying it wasn't worth $500,000,000 ?

HA HA HA,
I'm ROLLING ON THE FLOOR Laughing so hard I can Cry ! ! ! ! Ray is most funny for UNDERSTATEMENT!

 as answer = = = = = NO ! !, that site is NOT worth the "paper it's written on" (american expression for worthless)
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Commented:
@NM: I think the scaling problems at Twitter (which are in the distant rear-view mirror now) were an artifact of prototyping with Ruby on Rails.

Start small and grow? What an idea!  Heck, if you looked around, you might even find that unit testing was a thing.
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Commented:
I have remain quiet up to now.  Because this is like almost all failed web projects.  It failed long before it was ever deployed; and long before it was given any testing. I may have even failed before the first line of code was written.

100% standards compliant code is 100% correct, !00% of the time.


If the applicable standards were not specified the project was doomed.  If there was not mechanism for enforcing standards the project was doomed.  If they actually put standards in place then looking at the code tells us they either ignored recognized international standards, or their enforcement mechanism was flawed or not followed in which case the project was doomed the first time a non-standard piece of crap became part of the package.

Garbage in; garbage out.  It doenot matter how many competent developers, designers and administrators you have; if just one idiot is allow to put trash in the package, you might as well put together a project written by 10-year olds and monkeys because that is the level of discipline attention span that you get when standards go out the window.

Cd&
Jason C. LevineDon't talk to me.
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Commented:
When you're more worried about the deadline than the functionality.... failure is imminent

This.

If the applicable standards were not specified the project was doomed.  

aaaaaand this.

Add to that a system that has, literally, nobody in charge.

oh, and that too.

:)
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Commented:
In case you missed it this morning, NBC and CNBC have uncovered documents showing that Obama's repeated public reassurances that "if you like your health plan, you can keep your health plan" were known by the administration to be false statements as long as three years ago.  So the troubles with the web site are the tip of the iceberg.  Now it goes to a question of lying to Congress and to the American people.  And that is a political problem which will cause action in Washington, DC.
James HancockSelf Employed

Author

Commented:
The fact that they hired obvious novices to do this gets me.
I know it is a super-massive site, but a password setup of public key, private key, instead of plain-text password and personal info transfer - is pathetic.
Jason C. LevineDon't talk to me.
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Commented:
The fact that they hired obvious novices to do this gets me.

That's the thing.  The company is not "obvious novices" and, in fact, a fairly well-known and successful company in this space:

http://www.cgi.com/en

So something else was in play.
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Commented:
Agreed.  CGI has many government contracts.  But maybe the ability to get government contracts and the ability to execute the contracts are not the same.  Maybe the government should have hired these guys: http://www.dobt.co/

But to be fair to everyone involved, there is no way this project could have succeeded at all, no matter who was running the train.Where is the "Obamacare Girl" now?
James HancockSelf Employed

Author

Commented:
That is disturbing.

Your link is not to a clown show.

Why did they send user info as plain text? baffling incompetence. That's one why I felt novices.

Do you think it was perks and under the table contracting? Someone mentioned a connection to Michelle / college associates?

Does that page code link/hint to/at a specific Website development studio they used?
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Commented:
CGI's trading symbol is "GIB" which wikipedia defines as "a castrated male ferret."  Sorry, you just can't make this stuff up!
http://finance.yahoo.com/q?s=GIB
Top Expert 2013

Commented:
From that W P article:

"CGI Federal began lobbying as it started winning government work."


When the U. S. still had a legitimate government spending 800 million to get government contracts would have been called bribery.  Today it is call a campaign contribution; and it is just a corrupt as the bribes paid in third world countries.

The system is a failure because of corruption.  The kind of crap that goes on in Washinton is the same kind of crap that happens in big cities for landfill contracts, concrete, and and just about anything else where inflated prices pay for the payoff; but in Washington the corruption is on a grand scale that is unmatched anywhere in the world except perhaps China and Russia.

Cd&
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Commented:
I don't know everything, but I've sold some hardware and software to the Federal Government.  I see a very visible trend among the K-Street law firms that used to lobby congress for policy and legal matters, and it is that these same firms now lobby across both the legislative and executive branches to influence specific contract awards.  It's a good investment to hire a lobbyist.  When you can win a $90MM contract and extract $580MM from it, why should you ever compete on price?  Just pay the lobbyist 10% of the contract award value.  This works out to less than 2% of the ultimate take, and that's a very reasonable sales commission.
James HancockSelf Employed

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Commented:
It cant get any worse.
What could possibly turn this back to acceptability?
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Commented:
I wouldn't say that, things could easily get worse, more detail is eventually released on what happened.  It seems like they are spending more time finding a fall guy rather than taking responsibility and fixing it.
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Commented:
They fixed it!!!
http://newhealthcaregov.com/
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Commented:
This is not a satire.  We now know the reasons that administration officials have been reluctant to release usage statistics about the Obamacare web site.

Washington news sources are reporting that they have gotten leaked numbers on the Obamacare web site.  On the first day, 6 people signed up.  This brings the cost-per-person to ninety seven million dollars, not including the cost to fix the site.  

Draw your own conclusions about big government programs.
Jim HornSQL Server Data Dude
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Commented:
>This brings the cost-per-person to ninety seven million dollars, not including the cost to fix the site.  
Not sure which statement is funnier, Ray's ratio above, or the website..
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Commented:
Colbert called it a "tech-turd-taco."
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Commented:
Looking a little beyond the web site, to the eventuality of having the government more and more involved in health care (a logical next step now that it's gotten involved in health insurance) we find this example.  Venezuela should be a wealthy nation.  It sits atop the world's largest proven oil reserves and its constitution guarantees free health care.  Of the 50,000 hospital beds in the country, 42,000 are run by the government, yet they treat less than half of the sick.  There is no anesthesia for elective surgery.  Doctors say it's impossible to know how many have died, and the government doesn't keep such numbers.
http://news.yahoo.com/doctors-venezuelas-health-care-collapse-051102447.html
Jason C. LevineDon't talk to me.
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On the flip side, most of Western Europe and Canada seems to have figured out effective single payer systems. It's not impossible.
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@jason1178, @COBOLdinosaur: Points well taken.  USA's Unaffordable Care Act got us the insurance mandate, but no additional health care.  We got nothing at all in tort reform, which pushes our costs up to 17% of GDP, when compared to other civilized nations where the cost is closer to 10%.  CNBC commentators expect the cost to rise to 25% of GDP over the next decade.  We have a system that ordered an AIDS test for my 84-year old mother, and then paid the claim without so much as a shrug of disbelief.  It just makes you want to scream!  Try to go to an American hospital and ask how much it will cost to have your appendix removed.  They can't tell you!  Not because they haven't done hundreds of appendectomies, but because they simply don't know anything about their costs.  You have to go ask the insurance companies to find this information.  Ask any man-on-the-street and you're likely to get a blank stare.  The consumer has a relationship with the provider.  The provider has a relationship with the payer.  But the consumer has no real view or understanding of what he is buying and how to evaluate the costs and the value proposition.  It's the most byzantine, anti-capitalistic thing you can imagine.  No wonder Canada gets better outcomes from a single-payer system!
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Commented:
BTW has anyone called the Obama Care (excuse me I mean the [un]Affordable Care Act) number?

It's 1-800-318-2596 or just dial 1-800-F1UC-KYO. Real easy to remember.
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Commented:
Where is the "Like" button?!!
Scott FellDeveloper
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Commented:
Here is your chance to make a difference in a govt website asking EE for help https://www.experts-exchange.com/Software/Server_Software/Content_Management/WebBased_CMS/Drupal/Q_28293143.html
James HancockSelf Employed

Author

Commented:
Lastly
For me, personally, having done university from 96 ->
- HTML proper
- SQL, db's
- after, PHP

One of my last textbooks came with the code for a working SQL database website, password included!
As Walter (Big Lebowski)  would say, these Obama developers were a bunch of f.amateurs.
This thing could even have been done in Flash! Is SWF completely universal? Can SWiF's handle massive data/ traffic? iPhones now.

Junior high kids are making iPhone apps and selling them. Xcode is not for clowns, so even somewhat capable people should have done an adequate job with Obamacare - with all the working code findable with Google. It is embarrassing knowing that other computer coding ?pros? failed like this.
Who vetted these fools? Were they even vetted?
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Luke ChungPresident
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Commented:
This is a topic that I've accidentally become a national technical expert on:

Written on October 1 that went viral: Healthcare.gov is a Technological Disaster
The media coverage I've received from the New York Times, CBS, CNN, Fox, MSNBC, NBC, etc.
Media Coverage for Changing the National Discourse on Healthcare.gov

I originally thought the people who designed and created this were incompetent. Now I realize it all makes sense if consider the government contractor's perspective and which decision would maximize profitability.
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Commented:
@NetMinder:  Yes, those are often called IDIQ contracts. It stands for Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity.  It's basically a "schedule" contract like the GSA Schedule.  Anybody who has one can "compete" for the business.  But the point remains the same:  The government did not solicit or receive technical or cost proposals specific to the construction of the web site.  It's a thinly veiled sole-source contract.  I've made a few dollars from these kinds of contracts, but I always delivered what I promised.

In contrast:
http://foxnewsinsider.com/2013/10/29/hannity-krauthammer-michelle-obamas-connection-obamacare-no-bid-contract
http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/obamacare-website-violates-licensing-agreement-copyrighted-software_763666.html
Jim HornSQL Server Data Dude
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Commented:
Note to self:  Wonder if my old gig at UnitedHealthcare / OptumInsight (the people who were awarded the 'fix ObamaCare' contract) is going to call me back saying they have a hot SSIS gig for me to work on....
James HancockSelf Employed

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Commented:
So many comments made it difficult to choose one.
Jim HornSQL Server Data Dude
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Commented:
>They could do a lot worse. Just make sure that medical is one of the benefits...
Absolutely no freaking way.  A rational person would think that a health care company would have at minimum GOOD medical benefits, but UHG has a qualified high-deductible health plan (QHDHP) for all employees.  They do have a couple of ways to reduce your premiums, but you have to follow their twelve-step programs and enter progress online.  And file a claim?  Good luck navigating all the websites.  Exactly the same method they run other groups health care. Way too much work.

Kind of ironic.
James HancockSelf Employed

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Commented:
Wow, more than I expected
Thanks
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