Obamacare’s Software Testing Failure

As we’ve discovered in recent weeks, bad software is a bi-partisan issue. Democrats and Republicans alike are outraged over the Obama administration’s health care law, and it’s not entirely due to the policy itself.

Instead, the software used to implement the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, is in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

Government officials and those who they contracted to work on Healthcare.gov are being run through the gamut of criticism over the total and utter failure of the website’s October 1 rollout.

  • According to CGI Federal, the central contractor in the project, an information technology system of the size needed for Obamacare should have undergone months of testing.
  • However, the schedule for development, set by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), allowed for only a couple of weeks.

The result was a glitch-filled, error-prone website that was barely accessible, much less functional. Users were unable to sign-up for health care coverage, a big problem for a program that relies so heavily on wide enrollment to be effective.

Aside from the login issues, some other problems included:

  • The site amassing too much “cookie” tracking data
  • Security flaws that could have put personal account information at risk
  • Back-end issues that affected the enrollee information sent to insurance companies

The only thing that kept these problems from becoming major issues is that not many people were able to sign up anyway.

The blame for the lack of testing is going straight to the Obama administration and CMS, where government officials apparently ignored repeated concerns and requests for more extensive testing. Apparently, much of the problem arose from a last-minute decision to change the way the website operated. Officials decided that visitors should be required to create an account before browsing plans so that prices would take into account subsidies available to them.

For once, party politics are not at the center of a Washington debate. Many states that chose to manage their own health care exchanges are having much less trouble with enrollment, but the states that chose to rely on the federal government’s website will continue to have trouble until the software is completely rewritten and adequately tested. Those without insurance have until March 31st of next year to sign up without penalty, so government officials and contractors are working frantically to help them do so.

As a society, we’ve come to rely on technology in many of the most important areas of our lives. At Beta Breakers, we use comprehensive and effective testing to make sure that technology works as designed.

In the case of Healthcare.gov, we’ve put the health care of many Americans into the hands of a piece of software. We’d better make sure it works, and soon.

Jeremy

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