The flagship website for the ObamaCare federal exchange that USA Today has called a “nightmare” and an “inexcusable mess” was built by CGI Federal and cost U.S. taxpayers $634,320,919.
According to a report by Andrew Couts at Digital Trends, CGI Federal won the contract to build the federal exchange website in 2011. At that time, however, the cost was expected to run “up to” $93.7 million – a woeful underestimate of the final amount.
The site itself…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.
Couts puts into perspective the investment of over $600 million in taxpayer funding for a botched website versus money spent on private online businesses.
Facebook, the report says, which received its first investment in June of 2004, was operating a full six years prior to going beyond the $600 million mark. Twitter, launched in 2006, was able to get going with only $360.17 million in funding until a $400 million hike in 2011. Instagram received $57.5 million in funding before Facebook bought it for $1 billion last year. Bringing up the rear are LinkedIn and Spotify, which have only raised $200 million and $288 million, respectively.
Couts wonders if the U.S. is “home to the world’s largest, most successful Internet companies, how is it possible that we can’t even manage to build a functional website without blowing through hundreds of millions of dollars?”
Observing a recent blog post at the Department of Better Technology, another private company that builds software for governments, Couts writes that Healthcare.gov failed “because the factors that play into which companies receive government contracts, a process called ‘procurement,’ are fundamentally broken.”
Quoting the Better Technology blog post:
Contracting officers – people inside of the government in charge of selecting who gets to do what work – are afraid of their buys being contested by people who didn’t get selected. They’re also afraid of things going wrong down the line inside of a procurement, so they select vendors with a lot of “federal experience” to do the work.
“And when things still go wrong,” Couts writes, “they simply throw ‘more money at the same people who caused the problem to fix the problem.'”
Though Couts writes that he is a supporter of the ObamaCare federal exchanges, “What I cannot stand is a nation that has vast technological resources in its citizenry spending $600 million of our collective money to slap together a product that, thus far, has only managed to waste people’s precious minutes.”