Your Tax Dollars at Work: $400 Million for Healthcare.gov

by Kevin on October 20, 2013

I don’t know anyone that would disagree that as a country we should find a way to provide adequate medical care to our citizens. Of course opinions on how to do that differ — free market, nationalized healthcare, and everything in between.

I also think that no matter what side of the aisle you are on we can all agree that Healthcare.gov has been a complete disaster and embarrassment.

Don’t believe me?

Here’s some facts to potentially change your mind.

Why We Should All Be Embarrassed by Healthcare.gov

These three (actually more) things have me just shaking my head at this implementation.

$400 Million and Rising For Non-Functional Website

The current price tag for Healthcare.gov and the associated exchanges sits at $400 million.

$400 million. 40% of a billion dollars.

And yet… the website doesn’t really work. I don’t have to link to all the news stories, you can find them yourself. But we’ve had stories ranging from only a handful of people being able to sign up in North Dakota, to long waits just to login (and then it doesn’t work), to unprepared volunteers that were supposedly trained to help walk people through signing up, to empty buildings where there are supposed to be volunteers to help people who can’t signup online…

It’s just unbelievable.

Put it this way: can you imagine Amazon spending $400 million and botching such an important job? Amazon and Google could have implemented Healthcare.gov flawlessly for $400 million.

I wonder how much it will take to get it actually working?

Licensing Infringement

Not only is the website only quasi-working, but even after spending $400 million to get it up and running someone along the way decided to infringe on a license for a script that runs on the site.

In theory it’s a small thing — the license only states the copyright information has to be kept in at the code level — but it is just another example that makes you scratch your head. Whoever put the script code into the site had to specifically go in and remove the copyright information. I doubt the company that owns the script will sue (per this article), but really? $400 million and you can’t even avoid breaking copyright?

Sending Information to Wrong Insurer

On top of all the other glitches, imagine this. You sit through hours of waiting in digital line to get into the website. You finally get in. You finally, miraculously, actually figure out how to buy insurance. You select your policy.

…and then the website sends your information to the wrong insurer. Which means a lot of chaos ensues, a lot of time on the phone, and perhaps your policy is never purchased.

Private Enterprise 1, Government 0

I won’t argue that businesses get everything right all the time. Nor will I argue that government doesn’t get it right some of the time.

But most of the time I would rather hand my dollars off to a legitimate business — not a government contractor integrator — to have them pull something like this off. Amazon or Google would have rolled out small chunks of the project, tested it with users, adapted, and changed as time went along.

What is most frustrating is that people within the project saw this coming. Check out this New York Times article for evidence: From the Start, Signs of Trouble at Health Portal. They knew this project was doomed for a poor launch yet still the administration pressed on.

Makes paying taxes this year even more frustrating than in the past.

{ 2 comments }

MB October 20, 2013 at 9:15 pm

Close. You’re only off by $243M. But, your points are still very valid, and hard to argue with!

http://m.slashdot.org/story/192743

Kevin October 21, 2013 at 7:20 pm

Excellent. The last number I saw was about $394 million… turns out that was from March 2013.

Yikes.

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