Apparently, no President is above the temptation of propaganda. Yesterday, the White House released a much-anticipated report on the beleaguered insurance e-commerce website, heatlhcare.gov, proudly declaring that “we believe we have met the goal of having a system that will work smoothly for the vast majority of users.”
Compared to its opening launch of October 1st, the website has gone from a 40% uptime to 95% and can manage 50,000 concurrent users (vs. the estimated 1,100). “The site is now stable and operating at its intended capacity with greatly improved performance,” according to new project lead, Jeffrey Zientz.
Operating-as-intended is a curious sleight-of-hand. There’s a few on-going issues.
1. We still don’t know how many users can actually enroll without any problems. Health insurance companies issued a stern warning that healthcare.gov may still be transmitting false user information. So-called “834” data is critical to verifying a consumer’s identity and if they’re eligible for discounts. In other words, we still don’t know whether the “vast majority” of users can actually get covered by January 1st.
2. The progress report has graphs that brazenly obscure the truth, like this one below of “bug fixes”:
The graph makes it look like the team has solved all the bugs, but how many more bugs are left to fix? If it’s 10,000 bugs, then it’ll look a lot different.
Here’s the one thing that this graph tell us: the communications team is still in charge at the White House. A technical team, concerned with giving the full picture, would never design a graph so obviously deceptive.
The most serious problem isn’t a malfunctioning website–which will get fixed soon enough–but that we don’t know if the administration has learned any lessons. Savvy tech companies are excluded from health insurance e-commerce, the federal procurement process let a mediocre beltway-based developer design the failed site, and the entire project has been shrouded from public scrutiny.
Other than the acknowledgement that procurement must be improved, President Obama has not given any specifics about how his administration will do things differently. I don’t think a buggy website is comparable to a botched war. But, Obama could have ushered in a new standard of honesty for the office of the presidency. This failure has far reaching consequences.
I am losing hope that there is change we can believe in.