During our morning meeting today one of our web engineers brought up the fact that the Affordable Care Act website has been broken for 2 weeks with no solution in sight. I thought this was peculiar given the site cost more money than LinkedIn, and the government has had ample time (months), to produce, test and implement this website to minimize the chances of it breaking.
According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report from June, this website cost over $394 million dollars to build: PDF. Let me be the first to say that considering the level of engineering, structure, maintenance, hosting, call center staffing, time and experience needed to make this site successful and functional, it is way overpriced.
Consider that Facebook with a price tag of $500 million has 1.1 billion users who are active almost everyday, while the Affordable Care Act website costs almost $400 million, and has a maximum potential of 300 million users who will use the site very infrequently. Also, it is completely broken while Facebook is not.
Alas, give to government and they will give it back broken. Here are the reasons we believe the Affordable Care Act website is broken... after 2 weeks!
Why is the Affordable Care Act Website Broken?
- Complexity: While websites such as Twitter, LinkedIn and so on and so forth manage a great deal of complexity, in a way, this new Affordable Care Act website is juggling a great deal more complexity, including virtually being connected with HIPAA, multiple government sites and various insurers. Take these facts together with the multitude of security required to keep user information secure and you have something very spacial that has truly never been accomplished on such a massive scale.
- Poorly written code: I had my guys and girls take a look at this crap, and frankly, they can't believe the authors of it still have a job. Clearly this code was not written with the consideration of the sheer mass of visits the site would be generating. To me, that's like building a car that has a weight limit of 1 person.
- Developed too quickly with very little testing: Remember being a kid and waiting till Sunday night to complete an essay due on Monday morning? Well, you probably got a C or perhaps even a B. The makers of the Affordable Care Act website deserve an F. There is no reason this website couldn't have functioned properly from its launch if it had been developed properly, and that means a an old school bulleted list of what works, and what need to be fixed.
At the end of the day, I have no doubt a special interest company received this contract, and put every inch of effort that goes into serving a client who will continue to pay you money to fix problems YOU create, and never run the risk of getting fired. It doesn't matter if you're a fan of the Affordable Care Act "Obamacare" or not. No one can be a fan of poor judgment and irresponsible spending.
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