Fixing HealthCare.gov is important; blame game isn’t

The OlympianNovember 1, 2013 

Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-LA, rubs his eyes during questioning by others Wednesday of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

The federal government had more than two years to build and test HealthCare.gov, the website where many Americans must go to buy insurance required under the Affordable Care Act. It’s incredible, and inexcusable, that the administration rolled out a poorly designed website.

Will heads roll for the inept launch of such a historically significant health care reform? Perhaps.

But one of the factors for the website’s failure has gotten lost among the finger-pointing over the technical debacle. Obamacare aims to sign up some 30 million people through exchanges who otherwise have no access to health insurance. It’s an ambitious target made more arduous by 30 states attempting to thwart the law’s implementation.

Twenty states, including Washington, created their own health care exchanges and developed online portals that mostly escaped the federal website’s problems. Thirty others, including almost all of the Southern red states, opted out and are doing next to nothing to help their residents enroll.

The resisting states have forced more people than necessary to visit the federal website, intensifying its design flaws. If more or all states had created their own exchanges, the problems of HealthCare.gov would still exist and need fixing, but they would have frustrated significantly fewer people.

It’s a fact of modern life that glitches in website development occur. It was certainly embarrassing that the Washington exchange — wahealthplanfinder.org — went down on Sunday during a visit of the state’s mobile trailer to the Olympia Farmers Market.

Both the federal and state governments can do better. A deliberate and comprehensive overhaul of the federal website is needed, including a security review and abandoning the hub architecture model — providing personal information before browsing. That’s backward to private online retailers.

Also, the federal government’s cumbersome contracting rules deter the best and brightest, and should be streamlined.

That said, the responsible reaction for implementation of ACA from Congress should be how lawmakers can assist to implement the policy they approved.

When a private company rolls out a new product, webpage or otherwise, it does so without mandated deadlines or resource-diverting hearings designed to undermine credibility of the decision.

Let’s move on to fixing problems and leave assigning blame behind.

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