ObamaCare Is Working Fine (As Long As No One Tries to Use It)



In an op-ed for USA Today published yesterday evening, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius touted recent progress the Obamacare tech team has made on repair efforts to the health law's troubled online insurance portal, HealthCare.gov.

"The site is running faster, it's responding quicker and it can handle larger amounts of traffic," Sebelius wrote.

But please, she gently suggested, try to avoid rushing to experience the improvements all at once. Even after saying that "the system is now working smoothly for the vast majority of users," Sebelius also warned that those who prefer to shop online "may want to visit HealthCare.gov in off-peak hours when there is less traffic."

So the online experience is working fine as long as no one* actually uses it?

Some improvements do seem to have been made, but given the near total failure of the initial rollout, that's a pretty low bar. And even still, it seems pretty clear that the new and improved HealthCare.gov still has a few kinks to work out, even on the front-end user experience that was supposed to be significantly improved.

ProPublica's Charles Ornstein chronicled his own test of the reformed website this morning and found "long delays loading pages, an endless circle of tasks (some already completed) and ultimately an error message." His test-run ended with an unhelpful, grammatically incorrect apology, "Sorry theres [sic] a problem with our system," and a recommendation that he log out and try again in 30 minutes. Others, including Reason's Nick Gillespie, are reporting similar glitches in their attempts to use the site. 

Maybe these folks are just part of the minority of users still expected to experience trouble. More likely, however, is that the front end of the site still has some significant problems. And remember: That's the portion of the system that the tech repair team prioritized, and was by now supposed to be working smoothly for the vast majority of users.

With 30 to 40 percent of the site, including critical insurer payment systems, yet to be completed and tested, you can bet these problems will continue. Not only because it clearly takes longer than expected to excise flaws from the system, but because lingering problems with the portion that's already been built will take time and energy away from constructing and testing the portions of the system that have yet to be put in place. The administration delayed the Spanish language version of site from its initial planned opening, and just last week announced that the federally run small business exchange that was supposed to open last month would be postponed by a year. The team working on Obamacare is already reported to be working around the clock on repairs; even if they don't burn out from the weeks of long hours, it's inevitable that building additional functionality and putting it through the paces will fall by the wayside if the existing troubles aren't fixed.

Even now, just a day after the relaunch, it seems likely that the performance goals the administration was shooting for have not actually been hit: On a press call this afternoon, a spokesperson for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services backed away from the 50,000 simultaneous users figure that officials provided just yesterday.

If the administration does eventually meet its performance goals, however, it remains to be seen whether they will be enough. In the days following the launch of the exchanges, federal officials falsely claimed that the sole cause of the system's dysfunction was too much traffic. But as we get closer to the deadline for signing up for coverage that begins next year, traffic loads could add to the system's problems. The rebuilt system is supposed to be able to handle about 50,000 concurrent users, but when the site launched, there were as many as 250,000 people trying to log on all at once. If a flood of users does try to sign up in the next few weeks, that could be a problem. 

So if demand for enrollment is high, the system is liable to crash again, resulting in more of the kind of frustrations we've already seen. On the other hand, if demand is low, then that suggests a different set of problems—minimal interest in the insurance being sold on the exchanges, and, as a result, smaller risk pools made up of sicker individuals who will be more expensive to insure. Either way, in other words, it won't really work. 

*No, I don't literally mean "no one." 

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  1. *No, I don’t literally mean “no one.”

    So figuratively no one? I’m confused. Doesn’t literally mean figuratively? So the question is how many figurative persons need to access the site to be compliant with the literal deadlines. Is it literally too many? Or just figuratively?

    1. Im making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life. This is what I do,…WWW.JUMP85.COM

  2. While it’s fun kicking a statist when he’s down, who really cares if the website is shit? Do you think the Dems will say, “Well, it took so long to get the website working we may as well repeal the whole law.”

    Regardless if it takes a month or a decade to sign up, it’s not going to stop the implementation. The only thing that can stop that is if enough people become irate that they’ve lost their plans or doctors or their rates have doubled that they call their critters. A delayed implementation won’t generate that kind of response.

    Fewer stories about websites and more stories about the effects of the legislation.

    1. Those will come once enrollment is supposed to be in effect. Newly enrolled Medicaid patients who can’t find a doctor, etc.

    2. The news cycle lasts for, what, 48 hours? That is probably being generous. The website is front and center again because of the self-imposed “deadline”. Give it a few days or weeks. Something tells me the Obamacare troubles are still in the early stages.

    3. You have to implement the law to see how it works. A logical extension of we have to pass it to see what is in it. After all, restructuring 16% of the economy can’t expect to be transparent until it is completely done. We just have to wait. TOP MEN have deemed it so.

    4. You are mistaken FDA. The website isn’t all of OC but it is essential to OC ‘working’. Without it the machine is non-functional.

      1. “Without it the machine is non-functional.”
        This, at least, was one of the lies Obo was telling at the time. The web site is key to cutting costs and enrolling all those millions of people who didn’t have insurance.
        The fact that many don’t have computers is one of the many facts left out of the argument.

      2. Yeah Cyto, but it will “eventually” work. It’s just software. It’s not like bad software is going to stop ACA from happening, it will simply delay it (probably past the 2014 elections).

        1. but it will “eventually” work.

          We’ll see about that. I’m not so sure. And everyday this doesn’t work is more damage to the political staying power of OC, which is already pretty shaky.

          1. If it doesn’t work it will be purely political.

      3. Mmmmm…in Oregon, Kitzhaber has got a whole floor of people inputting the apps by hand. Had a hilarious discussion with a liberal on a facebook page who was touting the wonders of socialized med and talking about the policy she had gotten on the website, then I pointed out that Oregon hasn’t, in fact, issued any policies. Period. Suddenly, “that wasn’t what I meant, I meant I applied for a policy on the website…”… Then I pointed out the application on the website is disabled, so, no you haven’t. Then, “that wasn’t what I meant, I meant I looked at the policies on the website…” Then I pointed out that if you don’t have a contract in hand, you cannot claim to have a price. It’s hysterical to kick a statist when they’re down.

  3. Man I’m chomping at the bit for some PM links

    1. You’ll have to hold on for another 24 minutes.

      1. I hope your deadlines are more solid than the administrations!

        1. I have it on good authority that the Suder-Man has already told other posters here if we like our links we can keep them.

      2. Look I just experienced a remake of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.

        Fuck these late PM links, fuck Allegiant Airlines, and fuck Semoran Blvd in Orlando.

        Your Future Reptile Overlords are gonna start harvesting at the corner of Semoran and Colonial drive. The persistent car wrecks there make it easy to spot from space.

        1. Sadly I know that intersection well…

    2. Man I’m chomping at the bit for some PM links

      It’s champing!

  4. Even after saying that “the system is now working smoothly for the vast majority of users,” Sebelius also warned that those who prefer to shop online “may want to visit HealthCare.gov in off-peak hours when there is less traffic.”

    Let’s say people listened to her: wouldn’t that mean the off-peak hours would turn into peak hours as more people try to sign up when they assume less people are using the site?

    1. “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

  5. Well that Chinese botnet over there is using the website just fine.

    1. Nice. Niiiice.

    2. Dar Mrs. Smith:
      Records show your policies is about to cancel. Click here and submit card credit numbers please to save from cancellation. IRS is having severest penalty for allowing insurances to lap size.

      Props to Tim.

  6. And sometime in December they’ll get around to openning the Spanish language version: CuidadoDeSalud.gov
    It’s like they don’t care about the spanish speakers and want them to die in the streets for lack of government subsidized health insurance.
    And it’s not like Hispanics are important to the D parties electoral coalition.

  7. See, the Platonic form of HealthCare.gov is, in fact, perfectly realized in the mind of Obama. The failure of hoi polloi to fully realize and perceive this perfect form of healthcare access is due to the limitations of the common, imperfect mind, not due to any failings in HealthCare.gov.

    1. “The failure of hoi polloi”….
      Thank the you, thank the you, thank the you.

      1. You’ve been chomping at the bit for someone to get it right, haven’t you?

        1. Ya know, I went to the ATM machine at 8AM this morning and used my PIN number…

          1. I’m not insanely rigid about “the hoi polloi,” given how few actually know that hoi is the Greek “the.”

  8. You know it’s funny, it’s almost like they think that number of concurrent users is the only performance metric. I mean I know there is no way they have had time to do resource leak testing properly. How are they going to handle the servers running at 40k concurrent users for 10+ hours? Rotating Bounces of Tomcat/IIS every hour? Of course that means that every person who happens to be in the middle of doing anything when their webserver is bounced looses their session and has to start over from scratch

    1. As was pointed out elsewhere, they just lowered the verification standards internally and on the backend. You don’t boink users every hour, you just terminate the sessions and process with the information you’ve got whether it’s complete and valid or not.

      Even if the website worked, insuring a bunch of people with no verifiable source of income and/or providing health care benefits to people who couldn’t otherwise afford it is explicit goal.

    2. Healthcare.gov is giving more users error messages than ever before.


  9. On the other hand, if demand is low, then that suggests a different set of problems?minimal interest in the insurance being sold on the exchanges, and, as a result, smaller risk pools made up of sicker individuals who will be more expensive to insure.

    And I can’t wait to see what interest looks like when OK and IN successfully prevent the feds from subsidizing or penalizing individuals who buy or refuse to buy plans from the federally operated exchanges.

    1. Obama won’t care. He’ll state that he disagrees with the court’s decision and issue the subsidies anyway. It’s what the American people want.

  10. …””The site is running faster, it’s responding quicker and it can handle larger amounts of traffic,” Sebelius wrote.”….

    ‘Soothes as it moisturizes!’
    Worthless PR bullshit.

    1. The site can handle one more user than on Oct. first and it responds one ns faster on average. So she is the best kind of correct: technically.

      1. Might even be a 100% improvement over the first day of rollout. In other words, instead of 6 people signing up per day, we might be getting !12!

  11. The Obamacare Website works perfectly. Any denials that it does are just Republican obstructionism and ill will. /derp

  12. Why does the government even have a web site for enrollment? Instead, why not act as a random referrer, which sends anyone at random to a medical bills paying insurer of that one’s respective state?

    Likely, each insurer would have a “get a quote” app accessible through their respective web sites. If someone didn’t like a quote, they could be sent through the randomizer again, removing the disliked insurer from the next fetch routine.

    Damn, this isn’t warp drive science. It’s 20th century computing.

    1. ACA 2.0: Pandora’s Box. Don’t miss the double entendre.

      Truth be told though, you can’t fix this product, because it’s not a product. And the government isn’t interested in your input, just your money.

  13. “Sorry theres [sic] a problem with our system,”

    Top… men…

  14. My wife and I just signed up for health insurance today. We live in Oregon, so we started at Oregon’s exchange site (and found that it still has problems, surprise surprise). Anyway, we decided which insurance company we wanted to go with, and went to that company’s site and signed up without a hitch.

    Mind you, we only got to sign up (relatively) painlessly because we knew we wouldn’t qualify for a subsidy, so we didn’t try for one. People who want subsidies have to go through the Oregon exchange site.

    Anyway, the end result is good for my wife and me, since we fit the right demographic profile: we’re middle-aged and she has a bunch of pre-existing conditions. I still expect Obamacare to be a disaster for the US as a whole, but it’s always so refreshing to see that the pain is reserved for the hoi polloi while we monocle-polishers reap the (relative) benefits.

  15. OBAMACARE! “Too Profitable To Fail”? America If you lose your coverage, your doctor, your insurance BLAME a Democrat. Next time you go and vote…remember WHO did this to YOU! DEMOCRATS!

  16. Just remember when the Chicago gangster Politics website gets running give all your personal information see how fast someone uses it and that’s not a good thing for Americans!!

  17. In other words, it won’t really work.

  18. I’m just still in shock that nobody saw this coming like a thousand miles away. It’s not schadenfreude time yet, because the crap hasn’t piled up deep enough that they’ve had to tip their hand, but when this disaster hits bottom and the fit hits the shan, I hope I don’t get fired on.

  19. I’m really sick of everyone focusing on the stupid website. Even if the site worked, this whole thing is still awful.
    The site is just a symptom of the disease.

  20. until I looked at the draft that said $8761, I have faith …that…my best friend had been actualie erning money part time at their laptop.. there mums best friend has been doing this 4 only about 8 months and resently repaid the morgage on there villa and purchased a brand new Aston Martin DB5. see here now

  21. CanCrat or CratCan?

  22. my neighbor’s mother makes 63 BUCKS every hour on the laptop. She has been out of work for 7 months but last month her pay check was 15302 BUCKSjust working on the laptop for a few hours. Learn More Here

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