Uproar over health care sites could be settling down

healthcare6.jpgA management consultant brought on by the White House to rescue the federal health insurance program says that the site should be running smoothly for most users by the end of November. Also, there's now a lead contractor in charge of the relief effort - one that has constructed part of the site that's actually working. All of which has NY Magazine writer Jonathan Chait offering three possibilities:

1) They know what they're doing.

2) They have fooled themselves into thinking they know what they're doing, but don't.

3) Meteor.

The Washington Post's Ezra Klein offers one more possibility: The White House is buying time. Rather than deal with the incessant day-today noise over the site's many problems, the fix-it group is asking to be left more or less alone for a month. In today's media whirl, that's several lifetimes, which means that barring further calamities, the health care story could get stale. Rewriting code, after all, doesn't make for great visuals. From Chait:

The administration is obviously putting its neck on the line here. If it fails to hit the deadline, all political hell will break loose. (There is a little wiggle room, as the promise applies to "the vast majority of users.") Therefore, presumably, the administration is extremely confident it can hit this deadline. On the other hand, it was also extremely confident it could have the site working reasonably well by October 1. So Obama apparently believes not only that his administration can fix the technical problem, but also that it has already fixed the managerial problem that caused it to underestimate its technical problem.

Meanwhile, numbers for Covered California, the state-run health care site, continue to be sparse. Nearly 95,000 applications were initiated in the first two weeks of enrollment, but officials are not disclosing how many actual policies have been completed. There also have been a few glitches, though nothing like the federal site HealthCare.gov. From MarketWatch:

We tried creating an account, using real names and social security numbers and got all the way to the stage of picking out a plan within about 45 minutes or so. The web site says it should take 30 minutes, but we ran into a few hangups along the way, one of which required assistance from the site hotline. The first came when we tried to enter a birthdate for the insured parties using the dropdowns provided by the site. But it doesn't engage when you use the dropdowns, you have to manually enter the date according to the format they show. It took several tries to figure that out. Then we hit a real snag when we tried to move on after entering the names and personal data for those to be insured. When we tried to move on after entering the last name, the site wouldn't let us and insisted that we enter more names. This took a call to the Covered California hotline, where a very pleasant operator was there to assist.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
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