Forum

Healthcare site needed delayed launch

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Since its launch on Oct. 1, the Affordable Care Act website, healthcare.gov, has been plagued with privacy and functionality issues. Users have found it frustrating or impossible to log in. Ben Simo, former president of the Association for Software Testing, found that the website sometimes sends sensitive information without encryption, and its email verification system can be bypassed, he said in an interview with TIME magazine. The contractors hired to build the website testified to the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday that the Federal government did not give them enough time to test the site.

It is important for citizens to have ample time to sign up for health insurance; under the Affordable Care Act, American citizens are required to be insured by the start of 2014. However, the Federal government should have allotted extra time and put forth more effort to work out these issues, even if it meant delaying the website’s launch.

According to a Gallup poll conducted Oct. 18–20, 50 percent of the general public disapproves of the Affordable Care Act while 45 percent approves of it. Meanwhile, a staggering 86 percent of Republicans disapprove of the act. With a relatively large amount of money being poured into the website from taxpayers, many of whom may not support the Affordable Care Act, the government should have been cautious not to roll out the website too quickly.

The United States Government Accountability Office estimates that the Federal government spent $394 million to set up the website and establish tools through which people can complete health insurance exchanges prior to the website’s launch. That’s a generous budget to create a website, especially for a law largely opposed by public opinion.

With such a large budget, those responsible for the website’s launch have no excuse for its poor debut. The agencies contracted to the website were chosen to develop a convenient tool for U.S. citizens to use to purchase insurance at affordable rates. The Affordable Care Act is meant to be a groundbreaking move by the government, and the website is a key component, but the website is anything but groundbreaking.

Surely those in charge of the website knew that staunch Republicans and other critics would jump at the opportunity to discredit the Affordable Care Act given the chance. After all, they have opposed it vehemently since it was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010. With this knowledge, those charged with creating the website should have made it a high priority in the overall implementation of the act. Instead, they placed it on the back burner to be tested and supported inadequately. Rather than hire a technology company to oversee the project, they allowed the Center for Medicare and Medicaid services to act as the system integrator for the website.

Now Jeffrey Zients, a White House official working on the website, claims that services will run smoothly for most Americans by the end of November. This lengthy repair time is a clear indication of the extent of the website’s launch flaws.

Of course, the Obama administration would have still received backlash from skeptics if it delayed the launch of the website, but a delay may have been the administration’s best move. An administration that announces its reasons for delays is better than an administration that launches flawed products.