Commentary

A Disappointing Diagnosis

On October 1 of this year, amidst heavy anticipation, the Obama administration launched [HealthCare.gov](https://www.healthcare.gov/): an online site where U.S. citizens can apply for insurance coverage as part of the president’s health care initiative. The excitement dwindled, however, when various technical conflicts and server overloads left the majority of interested Americans unable to access the website. Although the Obama administration worked to rectify some of the problems and relaunched HealthCare.gov, the site still continues to malfunction for 10 percent of the population, according to “The Washington Post.”

Simply put, the Obama administration could have prevented these complications by adequately preparing HealthCare.gov before its public launch. The first issue that warranted more consideration before a national release were the simple logistics of the website.

> As we approach December 23, the possibility of 50,000 or more people using the website simultaneously becomes even more conceivable.

Over 313.9 million people currently live in the United States, according to the United States Census Bureau, and although not everyone will need to sign up for a new health care plan, most American adults will have to at least access the Healthcare.gov website by January 1st. In a nation consisting of 241 million individuals over the age of 18, all of whom are required to have a basic health care plan, applications for government-provided care need to be sent in by December 23. The total number of American adults divided by the number of days between October 1 and December 23 is approximately 2,903,614, which is rather problematic, considering the website is only capable of hosting roughly 50,000 users at one time.

As we approach December 23, the possibility of 50,000 or more people using the website simultaneously becomes even more conceivable. Just by observing the figures, the server overload incidents so far seem to have been inevitable and rather predictable. According to Sandy Kush, an 49-year-old citizen of Illinois who is currently unemployed, completing the required forms for government-provided health care took one and a half hours. The limited time left to register, coupled with the high demand and low server capacity is a recipe for disaster.

> Julie Bataille, a spokesperson for Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), reported that a single bug was responsible for up to 662 submission issues.

In addition to server overloads hindering people from applying, various bugs have also prevented the website from functioning properly. Julie Bataille, a spokesperson for Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), reported that a single bug was responsible for up to 662 submission issues. This could most likely have been prevented if the administrators had been more prepared to handle these kinds of basic technological issues. We cannot expect citizens to trust the government with something as essential as health care if government officials are not even capable of adequately preparing for website traffic in advance.

To avoid further conflicts in the future, the government administrators should create individual sites for at least the most populous of the states. People from all 50 states using the services of the same website generated many of the issues and complaints. Liz Gallops, a 33-year-old insurance broker from North Carolina, ceaselessly tried to submit her application: only to receive back the message, “cannot finish your application now.” Partitioning the states into smaller groups will limit the occurrences of overloads.

Another potential solution would be government-appointed time slots for each state, which would neutralize the bombardment of people that the website previously experienced. However, this method won’t take effect unless all citizens payed attention to the news or radio incessantly. We also need to take into consideration that some people’s schedules might not match well with the government’s plans.

Fortunately, the situation is gradually improving. Compared to the 43 percent average crashing rate near the start, many fixes by the government administrators have made the new health care process more manageable. In addition, the CMS announced, “Ensuring that all Americans who need coverage are properly enrolled is a top priority for all of us. We are working together closely to resolve back-end issues between health plans and HealthCare.gov. We will report on our progress.”

> This tumultuous experience has risked the coverage of millions of Americans and could have been avoided had HealthCare.gov undergone greater scrutiny.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that a more extensive trial of the website before its launch would have given time for the administrators to address its problems. This tumultuous experience has risked the coverage of millions of Americans and could have been avoided had HealthCare.gov undergone greater scrutiny. The government should use this as a learning experience to approach projects of such a momentous scale in a more meticulous manner and with a greater sense of responsibility to the American people.