USA Today asked several tech experts about the Obamacare website, healthcare.gov and their conclusion is very bad news for the administration; the site needs a "total overhaul":
Recent changes have made the exchanges easier to use, but they still require clearing the computer's cache several times, stopping a pop-up blocker, talking to people via Web chat who suggest waiting until the server is not busy, opening links in new windows and clicking on every available possibility on a page in the hopes of not receiving an error message. With those changes, it took one hour to navigate the HealthCare.gov enrollment process Wednesday.
Those steps shouldn't be necessary, experts said.
And this is with traffic down 88% from the first week. Yikes.
"I have never seen a website - in the last five years - require you to delete the cache in an effort to resolve errors," said Dan Schuyler, a director at Leavitt Partners, a health care group by former Health and Human Services secretary Mike Leavitt. "This is a very early Web 1.0 type of fix."
"The application could be fundamentally flawed," said Jeff Kim, president of CDNetworks, a content-delivery network. "They may be using 1990s technology in 2.0 world."
Outsiders acknowledged they can't see the whole system, but they said they feared HHS built a system that will need an expensive overhaul that would cause more headaches for people trying to buy insurance.
"I will be the first to tell you that the website launch was rockier than we wanted it to be,'' HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Wednesday at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, adding that people have until Dec. 15 to enroll to ensure coverage beginning Jan. 1.
HHS officials did not respond to a request about the nature of the problems. However, they reiterated that wait times have been reduced or even eliminated as they continue to work to fix the system. As of Thursday, the site had received 17 million unique visitors.
"We continue to work around the clock to improve the consumer experience on HealthCare.gov," HHS spokeswoman Joanne Peters said. "We are seeing progress: wait times to begin the online process have been virtually eliminated, and more consumers are creating accounts, completing applications and ultimately enrolling in coverage if they choose to do so at this time. However, we will not stop addressing issues and improving the system until the doors to HealthCare.gov are wide open."
It's like trying to fly to Mars using technology developed to get us to the moon. HHS and Sebelius are making a brave stand, but at what point do the problems become too much of an impediment to large numbers of people signing up, thus causing the predicted meltdown as only sick people actually buy insurance?
Only people who really, really need insurance will spend an hour or more trying to sign up for it. This spells curtains for Obamacare as we know it. The program is unsustainable without millions of young, healthy consumers buying far more insurance than they need, paying far more in premiums than they should. This has been the achilles heel of Obamacare all along and with the website problems they're having, it may not even be enough to overhaul the entire system.