An article in the Star Tribune discusses the woes related to the rollout of Minnesota's site to enroll people in health care. I expect that the story, with a few details changed, applies to every similar site including HealthCare.gov.
The root issue is simple — there just wasn't enough time to develop these sites. I find it amusing that even though application development tools have made huge strides in the past couple of decades, the complexity and number of users of what the developers are building has grown even faster. The bottom line is that it takes as long, or longer, to build applications now as it did decades ago.
So what happens when there's a drop dead date that is too close? Sites are deployed when everyone involved knows that there will be serious problems.
I find it astounding that now, well after the fact, people on the management team are questioning whether the site actually should have gone live when it did.
“I lament that I didn’t ask the simple question: Do we really have to do all of this by Oct. 1?” said MNsure Board Member Thompson Aderinkomi. “I should have asked.”On the other hand, delaying the live date would probably have had little effect . . . whenever the site was made available, there would have been a huge influx of people trying to use it, and this would have caused problems. With this kind of web site, there are two options: Watch it crash because there are a hundred times more people trying to use it than it can handle, or waste huge sums of money to buy a ridiculous amount of hardware to handle that spike of usage. It must be maddening to manage a site like this and know that on certain days (like the last day of enrollment) your site is going to crash and there's nothing you can do about it.
The other statistic that amuses me is
MNsure officials acknowledge the rollout has been difficult, but they note the agency has signed up more than 175,000 people as of Friday, well above a conservative projection of 135,000 in mid-October.Well, one of the 175,000 people is me. I visited the site just to look around and it issued me a policy. I did not request a policy, and I'm not eligible for the policy that it issued me, but after a couple of hours on the phone I was able to determine that (1) I am now the proud owner of health insurance that I never requested, (2) It is not possible to cancel that bogus insurance since the folks who built the system did not include the ability to cancel a policy.
I am told that this sleeping-dog policy is not going to be a problem. I am told that I'm on a list of people who have requested that similar bogus policies be canceled. (I wonder how many of the 175,000 people are on that list.) But I won't be surprised if suddenly I discover, in a few months, that my real health insurance policy has mysteriously disappeared.