Are-We-There-Yet?-American just wants to go home because we aren’t there yet

By TBogg
Monday, December 2, 2013 15:12 EDT
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You may remember that about a month ago, which is four score and seven years ago to the iPhone generation for whom a Japandroids download that takes over 20 seconds is an eternity times infinity, that the Great Socialism Project That Will Stomp America Flat (aka Obamacare or Communism) had some internet user problems which is why there are absolutely no healthcare services available in America right now so you should just rub some dirt on your burst appendix, suck it up,  and quit yer bellyaching. In an effort to fix what wasn’t working, the Obama White House brought in some better quality nerds who, fortified with 5 Hour Energy IV drips, promised to get it up and working by Dec 1 or GTFO.

This had Even The Liberal Ezra Klein worried way back on 11/13.

Amy Goldstein, Juliet Eilperin, and Lena Sun report that ”software problems with the federal online health insurance marketplace, especially in handling high volumes, are proving so stubborn that the system is unlikely to work fully by the end of the month as the White House has promised, according to an official with knowledge of the project.”


It’s likely that no one knows for sure whether the Web site will be repaired by the end of the month. This isn’t a linear process. It could be that one line of broken code is identified, fixed, and ends up instantly resolving huge problems. Or it could be that the repairs take much longer than the White House expected. But everything I’ve heard backs up the pessimists.

So, how’d it work out?

Like this:

The Obama administration said Sunday that it had met its goal of improving the online health-insurance marketplace so that it works well for the vast majority of users but acknowledged it still has extensive work to do to buttress a troubled Web site that has marred the rollout of President Obama’s signature health-care initiative.

After a series of technical fixes and capacity upgrades, many of which were made over the past week, HealthCare.gov is now working more than 90 percent of the time — a big improvement over October, when the site was operating only about 43 percent of the time and frequently crashed, said Jeffrey Zients, the administration official overseeing the improvements.

So, no, not Mission Accomplished – It’s Miller Time, but the front end problems are mostly over and Even The Liberal Ezra Klein has been talked down off of the ledge:

A report released by the Obama administration this weekend shows the consumer experience is clearly improved. More than 400 of the 600 fixes on the administration’s “punchcard” of repairs have been made. System response time has fallen from eight seconds to less than one second. The administration believes HealthCare.gov can now handle 50,000 concurrent users. The site, which was down 55 percent of the time in early November, is now functional more than 90 percent of the time.

Of course, that means the site still suffers a disastrous outage rate judged by the standards of major retail Web sites — and that’s not counting the time it spends down for scheduled maintenance. We have no idea whether the 200 fixes left on the list are the really important ones, or the really difficult ones. We don’t know what percentage of people who begin an application suffer some failure before completion. The administration hasn’t released information on the error rate in the eligibility determinations or the transmissions to insurers, so it’s impossible to judge whether the site’s critical back-end functions are reliable. And there are important pieces of the site, like the payment mechanisms, that have yet to be built.

So there remain reason for concern. But here’s what’s indisputable: HealthCare.gov is improving, and fast. Or, to put it differently, HealthCare.gov will be fixed. In fact, for most people, it is probably fixed now, or will be fixed quite soon.

And now, speaking for the Glass Is Still 10% Empty And It Is Full Of Government Fluoride faction which has wanted affordable healthcare to die in a fire because …. “takers, not makers” is McMegan’s less-successful husband writing for listener-barely-supported (but now they take Bitcoins!) Reason Magazine:

In a conference call this morning, a spokesperson for HHS said, “we believe we have met that goal.” A six-page progress report released by the administration this morning touts technical progress as well as managerial improvements, declaring that the team making the improvements is now “operating with private sector velocity and efficiency.”

Anyone else catch the irony there? Set up a vast, government-managed tech operation, watch it fail—and then, as it attempts to reboot itself, boast of private-sector quality work? (Also, let’s not forget that the original failed work was in fact done by private contractors working under the managerial bumbling of the federal health bureaucracy.)

So it’s all fixed, and Obamacare’s going to be great, right? Not so fast. The White House’s stated goal of improving the website so that 80 percent of users can get all the way through the system still means that one in five users won’t make it through the digital gauntlet. It also claims that the site is stable and accessible 90 percent of the time, a figure it only gets by excluding the hours of scheduled maintenance it undergoes each day.


Given its history, the administration’s claims have to be taken with a cargo ship full of salt*—especially since there’s no good way to independently confirm that the website is working as well as the administration claims.

[Insert your own Pink Himalayan Salt joke here]

Where did McSuderman stand on the healthcare fixes a few weeks ago?

The saying goes that things have to get worse before they get better. But with Obamacare, things just keep getting worse—and then they get worse still. In private, even many critics of the law are at least a bit surprised by how poorly the rollout has gone. The question that many are asking is: How bad can this really get?

The answer is…worse. A lot worse.

Over the weekend, several reports suggested that, despite continued assurances that Healthcare.gov, the problem-plagued online insurance enrollment portal run by the federal government, would be running smoothly for most users by the end of the month, it increasingly looks likely that the deadline will be missed.


This could still be turned around, perhaps even soon. But it’s time to start considering the worst-case scenarios: that the exchanges continue to malfunction, that plan cancellations go into effect, that insurers see the political winds shifting and stop playing nice with the administration, and that significant numbers of people are left stranded without coverage as a result. Rather than reforming the individual market, which was flawed but did work for some people, Obamacare will have destroyed it and left only dysfunction and chaos in its wake.

Dysfunction! Chaos! Panic in the streets!  A scorched healthcarescape as far as the eye can see … providing you can’t see Canada from your back-porch. Failure, failure, FAILURE from which there is no return. Why, it’s almost as if McSuderman is unaware that his wife thinks that this is a good thing:

failureMost new products fail. So do most small businesses. And most of us, if we are honest, have experienced a major setback in our personal or professional lives. So what determines who will bounce back and follow up with a home run? If you want to succeed in business and in life, Megan McArdle argues in this hugely thought-provoking book, you have to learn how to harness the power of failure.

McArdle has been one of our most popular business bloggers for more than a decade, covering the rise and fall of some the world’s top companies and challenging us to think differently about how we live, learn, and work. Drawing on cutting-edge research in science, psychology, economics, and business, and taking insights from turnaround experts, emergency room doctors, venture capitalists, child psychologists, bankruptcy judges, and mountaineers, McArdle argues that America is unique in its willingness to let people and companies fail, but also in its determination to let them pick up after the fall. Failure is how people and businesses learn. So how do you reinvent yourself when you are down?

Dynamic and punchy, McArdle teaches us how to recognize mistakes early to channel setbacks into future success. The Up Side of Down marks the emergence of an author with her thumb on the pulse whose book just might change the way you lead your life.

The two of them really need to talk more…

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