Some IT experts say blowing up the website and starting over the best solution
"We don't even know where all of the problems lie, so how can we solve them?" said one IT expert. And that's why there is a growing consensus among outside experts that the only solution to the healthcare.gov problems are to blow the site up and start over.
Several computer engineers said it would likely be easier to rebuild Healthcare.gov than to fix the issues in the current system. But it's unlikely that the government would toss out more than $300 million worth of work.
The sheer size of Healthcare.gov is indicative of a major rush job. Rolling the site out too quickly likely increased the number of errors, and that makes the fixes more difficult to implement.
"Projects that are done rapidly usually have a lot of [repetitive] code," said Arron Kallenberg, a software engineer and tech entrepreneur. "So when you have a problem, instead of debugging something in a single location, you're tracking it down all through the code base."
To put 500 million lines of code into perspective, it took just 500,000 lines of code to send the Curiosity rover to Mars. Microsoft's ( , Fortune 500) Windows 8 operating system reportedly has about 80 million lines of code. And an online banking system might feature between 75 million and 100 million lines. A "more normal range" for a project like Healthcare.gov is about 25 million to 50 million lines of code, Kennedy said.
"The [500 million lines of code] says right off the bat that something is egregiously wrong," said Kennedy. "I jumped back when I read that figure. It's just so excessive."
Applicants might be able to at least register for Obamacare sooner than that, even if the site isn't 100% perfect. The New York Times report said five million lines of code need to be replaced just so the site can run properly.
But the Obamacare website has bigger problems than simply getting people registered for health care. The code is also riddled with security holes, according to Kennedy, who outlined his cybersecurity concerns on Trusted Sec's company blog.
"If someone can't register, that's obviously bad -- but if the information gets hacked, you're talking about one of the biggest breaches in American history," Kennedy said. "I think security is an afterthought at this point."
No, we're not going to flush $364 million down the toilet. But we may end up spending that much to fix the site anyway. The question now is whether to shut it down for 6 months or try and keep it running while fixing it on the fly.
Unless it becomes physically impossble to get insurance on the exchanges, the individual mandate will not be delayed. The government doesn't care how hard it will be to go all the way through the process of getting insurance. They won't care if you have to spend 2 or 3 hours in front of a monitor, getting error messages and having your computer freeze up. If it is physically possible to get insurance, you better get it or pay the fine.
The fact that your insurance quote might be off, or the amount of subsidy you were told you were eligible for is incorrect won't matter to the government. These are all your problems - not theirs. And a lot of Americans are going to discover that before too long.