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These two paragraphs say everything about HealthCare.Gov’s problems

Unfortunately, adding an American flag to your computer does not improve HealthCare.Gov's functionality. (Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images)

There's lots of great Obamacare reporting out this morning  — and two particular paragraphs I found especially useful in understanding where the HealthCare.Gov launch went wrong. The first one comes from my colleagues Lena H. Sun and Scott Wilson, who have one of the most detailed accounts to date of the problems that proceeded Oct. 1.

Here's the paragraph that stood out to me (but really, you should read the entire story):

Some key testing of the system did not take place until the week before launch, according to this person. As late as Sept. 26, there had been no tests to determine whether a consumer could complete the process from beginning to end: create an account, determine eligibility for federal subsidies and sign up for a health insurance plan, according to two sources familiar with the project.

Sun and Wilson also report that "When the Web site went live Oct. 1, it locked up shortly after midnight as about 2,000 users attempted to complete the first step." Taken together, their reporting suggests that HealthCare.Gov didn't go through the testing that would typically proceed a major launch. A lot of this likely has to do with the fact this was such a date-driven project: The White House had repeatedly promised that the marketplaces would launch Oct. 1. Technology experts I've spoken with think that, in any other situation, it would have made the most sense to push back the date.

The second paragraph comes from the House Oversight committee, which has been investigating HealthCare.Gov. They interviewed officials from CGI Federal last Wednesday.

CGI officials told Committee staff that CMS officials and employees constantly mentioned "The White House" when discussing matters with CGI. For example, CMS officials would routinely state: "this is what the White House wants." Moreover, CGI officials told Committee staff the ability to shop for health insurance without registering for an account - a central design feature of the health insurance exchange - was removed "in late August or early September."

The committee testimony also suggests a hasty finish to the health-care marketplace's testing, with key decisions changing within weeks of launch and lots of upper-level management. We'll probably learn more on this front Thursday, when key contractors will testify at an Energy and Commerce hearing.

For those who prefer their news in satire form, might I suggest this most excellent opening to "The Daily Show" last night?



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Brad Plumer · October 22, 2013

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