The broad criticism note that on what stands to be the largest roll-out of a social program since some of the "Great Society" initiatives, the government grossly overpaid for a website that barely works, using primitive web technology that relies on far too much code.
A companion argument is that no major insurance company would treat their websites this way, and one might rhetorically ask, "Does anyone think Apple, Amazon or Facebook would tolerate that?" You answer is supposed to be, "No, they wouldn't."
Here are some of the charges:
- It's built with 10-year old technology.
- The site wasn't tested until a week before going live.
- Some experts even doubt it had any real testing.
- How bad is it? Even Consumer Reports is blasting the site, saying, "Don't bother even trying for another couple of weeks ... But if all this is too much for you to absorb, follow our previous advice: Stay away from Healthcare.gov for at least another month if you can."
- The original cost for the set-up was pegged at about $90-million dollars. The final cost was over $400-million.
Certainly there are valid concerns and fair questions to raise, but what's missing is some level-headed perspective.
It's been a common, albeit logical, retort from ACA defenders that if a website doesn't work, that can be extrapolated to mean that the law itself is no good. At least that's what Republicans keep trying to claim in some sort of guilt-by-association reasoning.
But consider how silly it is to suggest comparisons of the law's website with Internet giants as they are today, instead of where they were when they first started. You mean they didn't make any mistakes when they were first starting up, or along the way as they came to be known as Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook. Even today we hear of major glitches in software and hardware, and policy changes about privacy or content.
Talk to any software engineer. You can't rush software. You can't speed up the development cycle by throwing money at it. Many have tried and they all have failed. The only way to do the roll-out right would have been to start sooner, but that really wasn't possible for the administration to do given the tenacious fight put up by Republicans trying to repeal the law from the very first day it was enacted.
Can you imagine the administration allocating millions to a website before the Supreme Court decision, and before the 2012 election? What if the court had ruled the law unconstitutional? What if Obama had lost his reelection bid? The same people complaining about the site today would instead be complaining about the millions wasted on building a site that would no longer be needed. Not to mention that the people who designed the site weren't government contractors but private sector contractors, you know, because the free market, they always do things better than government.
Anyone remember the Medicare Part D roll-out under George Bush and a Republican-controlled Congress? That was pretty bumpy, too. A reader at the Atlantic Magazine website comments about trying to enroll in Medicare Part D when that came out:
I was responsible for 4 members of my family. Two ended up on Part D and two stayed with private. I ran into software glitches, wrong information, delays, required reboots, etc., and Part D was much, much simpler than Healthcare.gov. The second year was a little better (only a little) but the third year things went well and I completed all the work in a short period of time, with good results. Closing the "donut hole" of Part D has been a huge benefit to one family member, who saw her out of pocket take up her entire SS check for three months, until she passed the "hole."
Yeah, the [current] roll out sucks, but look at the size and complexity and you really have to say it is not great, but not as bad as it could be. Heck, I "upgraded" to iOs7 on my iPhone and it has been nothing but bugs, glitches, and problems. One small product, well controlled by one company.
Okay, let's fix it. But let's keep some perspective here.