In 2005, then President George W. Bush’s Medicare Part D suffered a disastrous launch because of issues with the program’s website.
The program was created so that the costs of prescription medication and prescription drug insurance premiums would be subsidized for Medicare beneficiaries, but sadly people had trouble accessing the website when it went online. Fast forward to October 1, 2013, President Barack Obama’s HealthCare.gov seemed to have suffered the same thing. As nice as the web and graphic design was, the site just wasn’t built with enough bandwidth. Makes you wonder who were the developers behind the scenes and what their skill sets were.
Days before the launch of HealthCare.gov, it was identified that the website was unable to handle the 500 users that were logged on all at the same time, as well as the 2,000 users that logged on during the three-day testing period. The information was released through a series of internal emails from Republican lawmaker’s from the House Energy and Commerce Committee investigating the messed up rollout. But Chao is addressing the issue, telling his team and contractors at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMs) that he doesn’t want a repeat of what happened to Medicare.gov.
The results of the performance tests, however, were rather embarrassing for President Obama since he had sworn that the website would enable people to easily shop for health insurance, much like how one would shop for insurance at a local agency. And it is also making people wonder whether the mismanaged rollout is a sign of how his healthcare reform program is currently run. Here’s a look at Obama’s intro to the site:
While the CMS did admit that they underestimated the number of users who would want to log on to the website simultaneously and that they wouldn’t have launched the site if they were fully aware that there was a high possibility of things going terribly wrong, only that the e-mails were inconsistent with their statement. There were a lot of concerns from information technology officials, and so they worked hard.
The plan was that they would initially aim to handle 10,000 users and then eventually reach for 50,000. Hemant Sharma, a contractor with CGI Federal who is helping build the site, suggested that they add more servers despite director for the office of enterprise management David Nelson reported “We have not been successful in moving beyond 500 concurrent users filling applications. We must give ourselves the ability to work through these tuning issues.” During the launch, however, there were as much as 250,000 users that logged on all at once, which was way more than what they had expected.
The e-mails also showed the president’s top technology adviser, Todd Park, asking Chao if the system was ready, but a reply was not included. But White House spokesperson Eric Shultz says that “To the extent that CMS had identified capacity issues, we of course sought assurances that they were getting addressed” and that the e-mails were “cherry-picked” to make the whole thing look bad. And as for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Chairman Fred Upton remains steadfast on their claims that “the administration went out of its way to hide the chaos behind the scenes.”