The Spectacle Blog

Internet: 1; Obamacare: 0

By on 10.11.13 | 1:35PM

Just 51,000 people completed Obamacare applications during its websites' first week, according to MailOnline, The target for the six-month open enrollment period is 7 million for the program to be financially feasible. At this rate, they will come up 5 million short.

All this for Healthcare.gov websites that cost taxpayers over $500 million, according to an estimate from Andrew Couts of Digitaltrends.com:

The reason for this nationwide headache apparently stems from poorly written code, which buckled under the heavy influx of traffic that its engineers and administrators should have seen coming. But the fact that Healthcare.gov can’t do the one job it was built to do isn’t the most infuriating part of this debacle – it’s that we, the taxpayers, seem to have forked up more than $500 million of the federal purse to build the digital equivalent of a rock.

After ten days of Twitter whining, 404 errors, timed-out sessions, glitches, and Internet waiting room messages, frustration is mounting, and rightly so.

"It wasn't designed well, it wasn't implemented well, and it looks like nobody tested it," Luke Chung, an online database programmer, told CBS News.

"It's not even close. It's not even ready for beta testing for my book. I would be ashamed and embarrassed if my organization delivered something like that," he said.

The administration built the site’s capacity based on predictions that it would have to handle a similar volume to Medicare’s all-time high of 30,000 simultaneous users. Instead, Healthcare.gov attracted 240,000 simultaneous users and a total of 8.1 million visitors in its first week. 

According to Todd Park, the top technology officer in the Obama administration, the other glitches were a function of the volume. This past weekend, technicians shut down the enrollment functions during off-peak hours to make repairs. And yet the glitches go on.

David Brailer, former national coordinator of health care IT during the launch of Medicare Part D, criticized the administration’s calculations regarding Healthcare.gov:

"Whoever thought it would draw 60,000 people wasn't reading the administration's press releases,'' said David Brailer, former national coordinator of health care information technology. "The Medicare Part D site was supposed to have 20,000 simultaneous users and was (built for) 150,000, and that was back when computing was done on an abacus. It isn't that hard.''

This sort of occupational incompetence is unforgivable. If government can’t effectively launch or operate a website, how can it effectively determine which health care plans are right for you and me?

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