Problems With Healthcare Exchanges Highlight Government's I.T. Obstacles

Thursday, October 24, 2013

In Washington, the frustration continues over the federal insurance exchange website, where many users remain unable to sign up for health insurance. The latest chapter in the saga: some Republicans are calling for changes.

“All I'm calling for is a delay on that requirement until the General Accounting Office of the United States certifies that the website is up and working and functioning and has been functioning for six consecutive months, I think that's a prudent approach,” Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) said Tuesday in an interview with CBS.

But Democrats aren’t so keen on the idea.

“While there are glitches, there are solutions as well. So I'm optimistic that we'll be able to go forward on schedule,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) stated at news conference on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the administration says it is bringing in the big guns to resolve the website issues: Silicon Valley.

We take a closer look at the challenges I.T. workers could face in trying to troubleshoot the site.

Clay Johnson, a Presidential Innovation Fellow who now heads a tech start-up called the Department of Better Technology, explains why the site's malfunction is a sign of larger problems the federal government faces when it comes to I.T.


Clay Johnson

Produced by:

Tyler Adams


T.J. Raphael

Comments [2]


Johnson is concerned that we not stereotype "small businesses" *as defined by the federal government* as 9 people in a groovy startup playing foosball, in terms of scale, revenue, or responsibility. And he's spot on.

I wish, however, that he would stop using the example of "I talked to one fed who didn't believe you could build a website for $150,000..or for free" as his blanket example of how disconnected feds are. And I am sure that in his time as a Presidential Innovation Fellow he met some of them--and I am not talking about Todd Park.

There *are* feds who are actively on GitHub, the code development and sharing platform, who promote the use of WordPress (one of the $0 website solutions people turn to)and Bootstrap There are feds working with APIs on top of open data, and teaching other feds to do that, who consider open data an integral part of citizen services. (Please see for more examples--which includes a presentation from Clay himself.) And there are actually contractors who are supporting feds in all these efforts.

Does this change what happened with No. Does that mean that federal procurement or IT processes shouldn't be examined? No. But I would ask how useful it is to employ a negative anecdote (non data-based!) on the road to fixing things, and making them better.

Oct. 24 2013 12:11 PM
a teacher from Washington State

Enjoyed this report... our school district has suffered from this phenomena. It only wants to purchase materials from education companies and they do not always have the best programs. We have a student data system called ASPEN from Follett Corporation. It is very clunky and difficult to work. I am sure there are small companies who do software development that has created a better program.

Oct. 24 2013 09:53 AM

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