The Conversation

Obamacare Only 70% Ready, Administration Ignored 'Train Wreck' Warnings for a Year

The New York Times reported Saturday that the problems which led to the last two weeks of glitches were not the result of overwhelming demand but delays, bad management and government indifference to a looming train wreck.

According to one insider, two weeks after launch with people working on it around the clock, the project is 70 percent complete.

One person familiar with the system’s development said that the project was now roughly 70 percent of the way toward operating properly, but that predictions varied on when the remaining 30 percent would be done. “I’ve heard as little as two weeks or as much as a couple of months,” that person said. Others warned that the fixes themselves were creating new problems, and said that the full extent of the problems might not be known because so many consumers had been stymied at the first step in the application process.

This failure did not catch the administration by surprise. They had repeated warnings that the system would not be ready on time but, for political reasons, chose to ignore them.

Confidential progress reports from the Health and Human Services Department show that senior officials repeatedly expressed doubts that the computer systems for the federal exchange would be ready on time, blaming delayed regulations, a lack of resources and other factors...

By early this year, people inside and outside the federal bureaucracy were raising red flags. “We foresee a train wreck,” an insurance executive working on information technology said in a February interview. “We don’t have the I.T. specifications. The level of angst in health plans is growing by leaps and bounds. The political people in the administration do not understand how far behind they are.”

And contrary to some earlier reports which seemed to place blame for the problems on private contractors, this was mostly a big government failure.

One highly unusual decision, reached early in the project, proved critical: the Medicare and Medicaid agency assumed the role of project quarterback, responsible for making sure each separately designed database and piece of software worked with the others, instead of assigning that task to a lead contractor.

As the story goes on to demonstrate, CMS had no business running an IT integration project on this scale.

Finally, the Times offers this reminder just how bad it is, "A New York Times researcher, for instance, managed to register at 6 a.m. on Oct. 1. But despite more than 40 attempts over the next 11 days, she was never able to log in."


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