Health

Obamacare website on the road to recovery, government report claims

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Fixing HealthCare.gov

523412897_17465571 This story is part of our series on the "tech surge" to fix HealthCare.gov. Read the rest of the series.

The error-plagued Obamacare website is on the road to recovery, according to a progress report published over the weekend.

The eight-page report from the Department of Health and Human Services claims that “substantial progress has been made,” with HealthCare.gov functioning over 90 percent of the time and error messages cut down to less than 1 percent. The administration believes HealthCare.gov can now handle 50,000 concurrent visitors.

In the report, the agency also takes responsibility for the site’s “unacceptable user experience,” with thousands of Americans unable to log in, let alone browse for affordable health insurance. Since Oct. 1, when the site launched, the government has brought in developers and the latest technology tools to make the necessary repairs.


Obamacare rollout: Read our report on why a “tech surge” won’t save HealthCare.gov


In the wake of Republican attacks and a firestorm of negative press about the broken website, the government says it now has a unit working around the clock. The team, led by the Obama Administration’s former chief performance officer, Jeff Zients, has reportedly knocked out 400 bugs and is meeting twice a day to address any outstanding issues.

We’ll have to take Zients’ word for it, as the effect of the repairs won’t likely be apparent until mid-January, when the administration reports on enrollment in December. In addition, it’s not clear whether the bugs that have been fixed were the most urgent ones or simply the easiest to repair.

Is it really fixed?

The report claims it has met its goals, but many reporters believe there is much work still to do. As Bloomberg points out, the error-rate is still higher than most commercial and online retail websites.

The New York Times reported over the weekend that the site may have undergone a facelift, but deeper problems still exist. With coverage scheduled to begin in 30 days, insurers are nervous that the system may not be fully repaired in time. Some say that information they received from a new ACA enrollee was inaccurate or incomplete.

These issues are certainly a cause for concern, but it’s also true that the site is improving — and fast.

Current and former members of the administration frequently point out that the site is getting better each and every week. Aneesh Chopra, the former United States chief technology officer and the predecessor to Todd Park, believes the good thing here is that the government is rapidly adopting a more modern approach to IT. Indeed, the sheer fact of the progress report’s existence suggests that the government is opening up its platform and is taking a far more transparent approach.

“The government is actively encouraging agencies to build open API’s into their databases,” said Chopra in an interview with VentureBeat. “What sit means is that more software projects will be built in that modular, lean and agile method that we see in the private sector.”

Chopra is also convinced that the data hub, the more complex project that connects a variety of sources, has been working form the outset. It’s the commerce site that is broken — and this is much easier to fix. “The data hub has to talk to systems that were never designed to talk to each other,” he said. “That was the priority from data one.”

Ultimately, the Washington Post‘s Sean Sullivan presents the most compelling argument. Whether or not you choose to be optimistic about the website’s chances of success may depend on preexisting political leanings. For Republicans, the rocky launch is evidence of deep-rooted issues with the health care law; for Democrats, it’s a system that will benefit thousands of Americans and is improving every day.

A summary table from the progress report

Above: A summary table from the progress report

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