Policy: Technology

A software installer's view on the Obamacare IT mess

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Beltway Confidential,Michael Barone,Obamacare,Healthcare.gov,Technology

A reader who says that he has done large software installations for one of the big accounting firms wrote the following in an email. It seems to validate the concerns discussed in my Washington Examiner column on the Obamacare IT mess.

1. The integration aspect is most difficult. In this case, the integration of various Federal Systems to determine subsidies is proving a daunting task. You are dealing with legacy systems that don’t integrate very well. Also the integration with the insurers consisting of sending an insurance application to the insurance company, a much easier task, was also screwed up.

2. The software architecture used to build the website was all wrong. Using Java scripts for a heavy duty production website was a bad move from a software design point of view. Obama has liberal buddies in Silicon Valley like Eric Schmidt at Google who should have advised him on how to implement a website with the latest technology.

3. Not having a set of specifications until 2013 and not actually coding until spring 2013 and making changes in specification into the summer is asking for disaster. Finally, allowing 4-6 weeks for testing when they should have allowed 4-6 months is another sign of impending disaster.

4. How could this happen? Years ago I was involved in implementing a Medicaid Management System at a state level. The management people from the state were bleeding liberal types you find in health and human services government agencies who have no idea on how to implement a computer system. And yet, to put HHS in charge of project management was the final nail in the coffin. Federal IT types are a disaster. That is why there are the Beltway Bandits to do the job.

5. Finally, you use a phased approach in implementing a system of this magnitude. What if you had put up an information website with an interface with an insurance agent who could take your application and complete the processing much like buying an auto policy? The agent goes online and checks out your driving record, etc., before giving you a quote and completing the application. A phased approach would have worked and not trying to do everything at once.

6. I’m an admirer of Amazon who revolutionized how we buy a lot of stuff. But they didn’t do it all at once. Perhaps they should have hired Amazon and not a Canadian IT Integrator with a ID/IQ contract.

My prediction is that the December 15 drop dead date will come without these problems solved. The Republicans offered a lifeline. Make the individual mandate optional.

So what happens on December 15? A real mess unless the insurers could extend the old individual policies they are phasing out for one year and make signup optional. But that would screw up getting the insurance pools large enough to float this ship.

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