Great news. Kathy Sibelius has announced that the “troubled” HealthCare.gov website will be up and running by Saturday, “as promised.” Just one caveat: it would be better if people didn’t try to use it. According to today’s New York Times:
White House officials, fearful that the federal health care website may again be overwhelmed this weekend, have urged their allies to hold back enrollment efforts so the insurance marketplace does not collapse under a crush of new users.
At the same time, administration officials said Tuesday that they had decided not to inaugurate a big health care marketing campaign planned for December out of concern that it might drive too many people to the still-fragile HealthCare.gov.
“Still fragile?” When you are talking about a computer program that requires the most robust and hardened architecture, along with state-of-the-art encryption and security, and requiring access by tens of millions of users, the word “fragile” is about as welcome as a beagle in a bunny hutch. Yet here, far from offering any words of solace or assurance, the Times swerves into a near-psychedelic vision of the outcome:
With a self-imposed deadline for repairs to the website approaching on Saturday, the administration is trying to strike a delicate balance. It is encouraging people to go or return to the website but does not want to create too much demand. It boasts that the website is vastly improved, but does not want to raise expectations that it will work for everyone.
So — it won’t “work for everyone?” Who will it work for? People whose names start with Z? Tunisian pirates? And what sort of “delicate balance” is required for this clanky collection of kludge to perform as advertised? Does it involve seals and beach balls?
Finally, there’s this:
“We are definitely on track to have a significantly different user experience by the end of this month,” Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, said Tuesday. “That was our commitment.”
Oh my stars and garters! “A significantly different user experience?” Didn’t the users already get an experience that was significantly “different” from what they were promised? What new thrills await? Will forked lightening issue from our computer screens and boil our eyeballs out? Or perhaps the website will simply erase our hard drives while transferring all our personal data to a Nigerian cocoa merchant?
Frankly, Ms. Sibelius, your “commitment” was to roll out a website that works (for everyone) without “balancing” anything, or suggesting that this historic fail is somehow a function of user behavior.
The only thing scarier than how badly this whole thing has crashed is the possibility that at some point they might get the website “working,” and the real carnage begins. A computer program can be fixed. But the insane tangle of wishful thinking, shitty assumptions and inconvenient truths that make up the reality of Obamacare is beyond all repair, redemption or rescue. We may at some point have a practical and functional national health care system. But not as long as this Frankenstein’s monster is still lurching around. It’s time for the torches and pitchforks.