The Obama administration's "tech surge" is just getting started in its mission to fix the troubled Healthcare.gov exchange site, but not all of the site's issues are simply lines of code. According to a report in the Washington Post, the Department of Health and Human services ran into a series of problems trying to manage the 55 different contractors working on the site. Startlingly, the administration didn't actually get around to testing the site from start to finish until just days before the launch, according to the report.
The Washington Post writes, noting that those working on the site were aware that the October 1st launch date was non-negotiable:
Some key testing of the system didn’t 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.
And another test, also run days before the site launched, indicated that Healthcare.gov wasn't capable of handling more than a few hundred customers at a time. The site "locked up" just minutes after launch, the Post writes, as about 2,000 people tried to start using it. NPR, meanwhile, dug into an obvious response to the White House's assurances that the "best and brightest" are now working on the site: why weren't those people building the site in the first place? As we explained earlier, the exchange site is supposed to serve individuals in states (with mostly Republican governors) that didn't set up their own exchanges. But even states with individual exchanges rely on a federal database to verify information, and both pieces of the Healthcare.gov puzzle are having trouble. That's stalling enrollment numbers nationwide at a pace that should have the Obama administration — not to mention the millions of uninsured Americans who need to sign up for insurance by December 15th — worried. By most estimates, the administration has less than a month to get the site back on track.
On Monday, the administration began its public push to fix the site, and to minimize the post-shutdown opportunity for Republicans to connect the site's failings to the merits of the entire health care law. In a speech, the President noted that signing up for insurance wasn't really an easy thing to do before the exchanges opened up. Meanwhile, Press Secretary Jay Carney pushed back against calls to delay the individual mandate by noting that the existing law provides a way for the government to remove the tax penalty for those who can't buy health insurance because of continued glitches with the site.