Healthcare.gov is Down on Launch Day? Thanks a Lot, Obama

I’m not buying it, Mr. Obama.

Surely you’ve heard by now that the health care system set up by the president’s Affordable Care Act went online today. You’ve probably also heard that it’s bombing, big-time. Not Obamacare (time will tell on that), but the technology that’s supposed to make it possible to buy affordable care.

All morning, social media crackled with reports that people couldn’t sign in to Healthcare.gov. There was simply too much traffic, and the site was locked up. When they hit the “apply now” button, all they saw was this:

The White House and Democratic Party supporters seemed to wear the failure as a badge of honor.

Obama Likens the Failure to iOS7 Release

During a midday news conference in the White House rose garden, Obama acknowledged what he called “glitches in the sign-up process … that we will fix.” He likened the failure to the recent release of Apple’s iOS7. 

“The reason is because more than one million people visited healthcare.gov before 7 o’clock in the morning,” Obama said. “To put that in context, there were five times more users in the marketplace this morning than have ever been on medicare.gov at one time. That gives you a sense of how important this is to millions of Americans around the country, and that’s a good thing.” 

Bad News: It’s Not Getting Better

Sorry to differ, Mr. Obama, but it’s not a good thing. Today’s failure was not a surprise, and it was entirely avoidable. Experts have been predicting – literally for years – that this would happen. We wrote about it here last November. 

As we wrote at that time, excess demand is not the problem. The problem is failing to prepare the system for an estimated 9 million people we knew would hit the site today. Developers simply lacked sufficient test time (and probably also the right tools) because government foot-dragging in coming up with regulations collapsed the rollout schedule. 

Dan Schuyler, a consultant working to help states set up insurance exchange markets, put it bluntly nearly a year ago in an interview with Kaiser Health News: “They’re not going to be ready.” 

The bad news is that it’s not getting any better. As Forney Fleming, director of a master’s program in healthcare hanagement at University of Texas at Dallas, told the Dallas Business Journal, the larger problem is related to the unprecedented complexity of what’s being attempted.

“The much, much bigger problem is related to the incredible complexity of what these exchanges are expected to do,” Fleming said. “It is going to require a degree of IT interconnectivity and databases that frankly don’t exist right now.”

The implementation is a great argument for Service Virtualization. Rather than sitting on their hands while regulators designed the system rules, developers could have been developing and testing continuously – and against lifelike loads or any system the new systems needed to access for data.

They could have been – should have been – ready.