Obamacare's Online Exchanges Vulnerable to Tech Meltdown

On October 1st, millions of Americans will be expected to begin clicking on to state healthcare exchange websites to enroll in Obamacare, an influx of web traffic and complex technological interoperability that experts say could spark a technological meltdown.

“Everyone is waiting for something to go wrong,” Dan Maynard, president of Connecture—a software developer working on Obamacare state exchanges—told Reuters.

Rick Howard, a research director at tech advisory firm Gartner, said the digital complexity and scale of Obamacare’s online architecture will be unprecedented.

“Nothing like this in IT has ever been done to this complexity or scale, and with a timeline that put it behind schedule almost before the ink was dry,” said Howard.

The online complexity of Obamcare stems from the fact that antiquated state-level systems will need to seamlessly interact with federal data services hubs, as well numerous external databases—all in real time, explains Reuters:

State IT systems must therefore "be interoperable and integrated with an exchange, Medicaid, and CHIP to allow consumers to easily switch from private insurance to Medicaid and CHIP," said an April report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress.

To make all those systems communicate, the state exchanges must either develop entirely new systems or use application programming interfaces (APIs) that work with the legacy systems to exchange data in real time. APIs are programming instructions for accessing Web-based software applications.

Experts also say the massive website traffic generated by millions of uninsured—or simply curious—citizens all flooding onto the websites at once could cause delays or crash systems.

President of Health Policy and Strategy Associates Robert Laszewski told Reuters “he wouldn’t be surprised if some patients showing up at their doctors’ offices next year with Obamacare policies are told their insurers never heard of them.” 


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