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Bug Government Medicine IT

Obamacare Website Fixes Could Take Two Weeks Or Two Months 382

Posted by samzenpus
from the one-of-these-days dept.
An anonymous reader writes "It looks like nobody is quite sure how long it will take to fix the health insurance marketplace website. '"One person familiar with the system's development said that the project was now roughly 70 percent of the way toward operating properly, but that predictions varied on when the remaining 30 percent would be done," the Times reported yesterday. "'I've heard as little as two weeks or as much as a couple of months,' that person said. Others warned that the fixes themselves were creating new problems, and said that the full extent of the problems might not be known because so many consumers had been stymied at the first step in the application process."'"
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Obamacare Website Fixes Could Take Two Weeks Or Two Months

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  • by Barlo_Mung_42 (411228) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @07:27PM (#45116819) Homepage

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ql9RVy6FWkg

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 13, 2013 @07:42PM (#45116915)

      It just goes to show: It doesn't always pay to contract everything out to the private sector...

      • by icebike (68054) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @07:57PM (#45117003)

        It just goes to show: It doesn't always pay to contract everything out to the private sector...

        Nor does it pay to code it till it's designed, and debug it till it's tested.

      • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @08:32PM (#45117163)

        "It just goes to show: It doesn't always pay to contract everything out to the private sector..."

        This website is not even what I would call "private sector". A couple of days ago I looked at some javascript from the registration page. You can look at it yourself HERE [healthcare.gov], direct from healthcare.gov.

        This javascript is hopelessly broken. Even simple string values are completely messed up. I just checked it again, straight from the website, and even the most basic (literally first day javascript student level) mistakes have not been changed!

        This is a complete mess. 70% my smooth, shapely, lily-white ass. It ain't even close to working.

        • Clarification: when I said it's not even "private sector", I mean it's not representative of private sector coding. It looks closer to a middle-school student's "do what I mean, not what I say" style of almost-coding.
        • by clockwise_music (594832) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @08:56PM (#45117299) Homepage Journal
          There is some gold in this file. Some highlights:

          resources['ffe.ee.myAccount.TEST'] = 'Apples to Apples';

          Seems like someone was trying to work out how to add resources. Looks like they also wanted to test out the quoting:

          resources['ffe.ee.myAccount.quoteTest'] = '“Apes.”';

          Hmm looks like you can't update your name at the moment. I guess you could call XXX-XXXX to do it: resources['ffe.ee.myAccount.profile.updateName'] = 'To change your name you must call 1-800-XXX-XXXX';

          Hey I wonder what happens when you try to login too many times incorrectly? Apparently nothing:

          showAlertText :function() { //TODO: add functionality to show alert text after too many tries at log in },

          I wonder who "Pod 6" is?

          //$('#signUpButton').hide(); pod 6 doesn't want this hidden

          And then my personal favourite, which is written twice in the code:

          // make sure we don;t try to do this before the saml has been posted

          Why is there a semicolon in the "don't" word? It is a typo or couldn't they figure out how to escape a single quote character in whatever is generating their JS? (This line is repeated twice) I'm guessing it was just a rushed developer who was running out of time.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by mikelieman (35628)

            Why didn't your state setup their own exchange like my own, New York? It worked great. The fed site redirected me right to new york's site.

            Easy Peasy.

            I guess if the state you live in just couldn't get the job done themselves, and NEEDS TO RELY ON THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO DO IT FOR THEM, well, beggers can't be choosers, can they?

            • by tlambert (566799) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @11:20PM (#45118155)

              Why didn't your state setup their own exchange like my own, New York? It worked great. The fed site redirected me right to new york's site.

              Easy Peasy.

              I guess if the state you live in just couldn't get the job done themselves, and NEEDS TO RELY ON THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO DO IT FOR THEM, well, beggers can't be choosers, can they?

              Are you sure the domain name for your state's site should end in .ru?

            • I guess if the state you live in just couldn't get the job done themselves, and NEEDS TO RELY ON THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO DO IT FOR THEM, well, beggers can't be choosers, can they?

              The whole point of obamacare is to do an end run around a state's desire to "do the job themselves", and youre lambasting them for it now?

              Wow.

      • by PapayaSF (721268) on Monday October 14, 2013 @12:28AM (#45118447) Journal

        It just goes to show: It doesn't always pay to contract everything out to the private sector...

        Because government employee programmers, who probably belong to a union and cannot be fired for anything less than murdering the boss, would have done better?

      • by mjwx (966435)

        It just goes to show: It doesn't always pay to contract everything out to the private sector...

        The problem with contracting to the government is that any company looks at government contracts as a license to print money.

        Whenever a government tender goes out, their eyes light up and the start seeing dollar signs everywhere. Practically no-one signs a fixed price contract unless they've got an off the shelf product with a no-modifications clause otherwise it's time and materials in which case expect every little thing to take longer and cost extra... Why? because it's the government and they're an e

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      But there's still no guarantee your application will go anywhere. You can be disqualified and shunted into Medicaid.

      This was an abortion from the start. If single payer is what you want, they should have just opened Medicare to everyone. Free if you're destitute, you pay otherwise.

      Of course, we still don't have enough doctors and medical professionals, and that situation will only get worse. So many under BarryCare, Medicare, whatever will still have trouble getting treatment without supplemental insura

      • by tepples (727027)

        If single payer is what you want, they should have just opened Medicare to everyone.

        That would have taken more of a Democratic majority than continued to exist once Ted Kennedy passed away.

        Of course, we still don't have enough doctors and medical professionals

        How much of that is due to AMA lobbying?

      • by Burning1 (204959)

        I can't speak to Doctors, but right now the education industry has pumped out way more nurses than we can employ. If the ACA forces hospitals to expand, the nursing jobs will fill quickly.

        • by Burning1 (204959)

          As a side note, the lack of insurance has a tendency of making medical problems worse. Patients won't tend to pay out of pocket for preventative medicine, instead waiting until a medical issue requires emergency care. The ACA can certainly help correct this issue.

          Apt platitude: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

          • That isn't always the case in any field. Sometimes it really is less expensive to just fix the stuff that comes up.

            Further, you can take any preventative measure and apply it in a way that the thing it's supposed to prevent would be cheaper to handle than the measure itself.

            For instance, do you own a car? Change the oil ever 5k miles (7k some models) as the manufacturer recommends? How about every 3k miles as your mechanic recommends, that must be better, right? And if that's good, how about changing the

            • by Burning1 (204959)

              That's a terrible comparison. Changing the oil according to the manufacturers recommended specifications *is* preventative care. Reactionary care would be ignoring the oil until the engine starts making clanking noises. At that point, you're performing a full rebuild, replacing all the components that were damaged by the oil system failure.

              The preventative option costs $50 a few times a year. The reactionary option costs thousands of dollars.

              Obama care isn't going to mandate that you go to the doctor every

      • by stenvar (2789879)

        If single payer is what you want, they should have just opened Medicare to everyone. Free if you're destitute, you pay otherwise.

        If you're destitute, you're already covered by Medicaid.

        The problem with opening Medicare is that it is in effect heavily subsidized and there is no good way of pricing it.

  • "The first 90% of the work takes the first 90% of the time; the last 10% of the work takes the second 90% of the time".

    • Replying to myself, "and the user interface takes the third 90% of the time."

    • Oh, I think it's more of:

      How long and how much effort will it take to fix it . . . ?

      It depends. How much money do you have . . . ?

      • They have a lot of money to throw at it, they've already spent hundreds of millions.

        At some point the project doesn't get done any sooner by adding more people (and money) on the project. This is primarily because of the effort it takes to coordinate so many people.

        Or to use the famous example from Mythical Man Month, one woman can produce a child in nine months, but nine women won't produce it for you in one month.
        • by ArsonSmith (13997)

          But nine women may get you one in 5-6 months as long "a baby" is all you're looking for and as "healthy" and "Safe" are not requirements.

    • And if estimates are varying that wildly, then the estimates are just guesses.

      And estimates that are just guesses always take longer than you'd expect.
  • Seems fine to me (Score:4, Informative)

    by ugen (93902) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @07:41PM (#45116907)

    I was able to register fairly early (around the 3rd) - when the site was still undergoing the initial onslaught of gawkers. It seems to be working ok now - no more "please wait, we are too busy" page at initial login, logging in takes a few seconds. Once in - I am able to search and view policies for appropriate states. The only real issue I found so far is that some of the insurance companies make it difficult to find actual policy prospectus. BCBS does a decent job with direct links, a few others make you look it up in a list by name (which may or may not match the name they present on the main site) and one (Cigna) has broken links that lead nowhere (but their rates suck anyway).

    All in all seems about as usable as I've ever seen in a government site. A heck of a lot better than the tax payment system feds have or any of the state DMV sites I had to deal with (and we are talking "red" states, who clearly should know better, right?)

  • Seems to me that I read that people using the Exchange need sign up for an approved insurance policy by Dec. 15, if they want to have it go into effect Jan 1.

    Which suggests very strongly that if they take that two months, then a lot of people are going to be looking forward to penalties come tax-time next year.

    • "Which suggests very strongly that if they take that two months, then a lot of people are going to be looking forward to penalties come tax-time next year."

      It's COMPLETELY unreasonable to expect people to find and implement a policy that fits them, given this huge mess of bureaucracy and glitches, in 60 days or so.

  • That 20% of the code/problems take 80% of the time? Perhaps the developers picked the wrong 2 of: fast, cheap, or good. [wikipedia.org].

  • by Guppy06 (410832) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @07:49PM (#45116953)

    Each state could use resources given to them by the federal government to build their own exchanges!

    Oh, wait...

  • ... 90% to go.

  • get a new team. start over from scratch. it's not that fucking hard a problem.
  • Any "percent complete" provided by a developer is nonsense. Especially since the progression you'll typically hear is something like 50%, then 70%, then 90%, then 95%, then 96%, then 97%, then 99%, then "I just have to do XYZ", then "I just have to do ABC", ...

    The way you actually figure out where you stand is by having a list of tasks and estimates that are small enough that each task is expected to be a couple of days worth of work at most, and then rate tasks either complete or not complete (and it's not

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Mr. Obama is our saviour. He is doing what no other leader has done for us. He is giving equality to 99% of Americans. This is important. Health care is important to everyone, and it is now a right we all can have equally for 99% of us.

    By us agreeing to have Mr. Obama and the 1% care for us, feed us, educate us, and providing for all of our needs, we are making a better place for everyone.

    Mr. Obama is our saviour, we need to obey him, and the wealthy people who put him in power. If we don't Obey Mr. Oba

  • Hopefully the costs of obamacare are a little more accurate or this could be a very short trip.

  • ... at least ... to get it designed right. That's because they need to throw away everything they have done so far and start over. They need to actually build the site rather than try to mish-mash a bunch of separate web products.

  • I'm sure no one will get sick between now and then. And if they do, it won't matter. Because when government hurts people, government always gets a pass.

  • by Kagato (116051) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @09:11PM (#45117389)

    What people don't realize is the private sector contractors in Gov't IT have little to do with regular private IT contracting. In order to gain these contracts you need to basically game the formula used to award the contracts. It's a bit more complicated than just having the lowest bid. A lot of it has to do with things like the number of Phd and Master degree workers you have to offer. This often leads to staffing composed of people who have unrelated degrees or people who are from diploma mills.

    The Obamacare IT is no more or less messed up than any other gov't system of recent times.

    Sadly, Obama can't just raid Silicon valley for some top tier talent to make a new system. That's illegal. Instead the contracts go to companies you've likely never heard of that specialize in sucking off the gov't teet. I'm sure 1/2 the budget was wasted making a 5000 page technical specification document complete with overdone pie in the sky UML diagrams no one understands.

    That's the way things will continue so long as the contracting process doesn't take into account the previous success of the contractors work force.

    • by number17 (952777)
      Maybe they should hire Booz Allen Hamilton. I hear they've got some good programming skills.
  • ... the House GOP leadership is getting their delay in implementation after all.

  • by craigminah (1885846) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @09:45PM (#45117609)
    This is fairly typical in government contracting...pay a lot and get something that barely functions but now you got to pay more to finish it because you've invested too much already to just throw it out. Once it's up and able to handle the customer base I'm sure they'll consider adding security or protect the data somehow which will cost another ton of money. They'll perfect it, but at what cost, how long, and why didn't they do this earlier? Some states' exchanges have been up and running great but they (the states) started creating them earlier.
  • Obligitory: "We have to code it before we know what's in it."

Never test for an error condition you don't know how to handle. -- Steinbach

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