The mindblowing incompetence of the Obamacare go-live

imageI have read through this astonishing report from the New York Times on the technical implementation of Obamacare.

I’m not a “tecchie” but I have worked for 32 years in the IT industry.

There’s a technical term for what happened here. It’s called a complete balls up.

This wasn’t just a question of not having enough servers wheeled in at the necessary time. The whole system was fundamentally not fit for purpose. The actual system architecture, the actual system coding was completely screwed up and didn’t work. The organisation of the network of companies and personnel who built and maintain the website was completely dysfunctional.

Here’s a passage from the NYT piece which captures the problem succinctly:

The website had barely been tested before it went live, so a large number of software and hardware defects had not been uncovered. Fixing the account creation software simply exposed other problems; people still could not register to buy insurance. A system intended to handle 50,000 simultaneous users was fundamentally unstable, unable to handle even a tiny fraction of that. As few as 500 users crippled it, according to people involved.

“These are not glitches,” one insurance executive said at the time, using a word the White House had adopted. “The extent of the problems is pretty enormous. At the end of our calls, people say, ‘It’s awful, just awful.’ ”….

“There’s so much wrong, you just don’t know what’s broken until you get a lot more of it fixed,” Mark Bertolini, the chief executive of Aetna, said on CNBC.


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