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HIX, A Disaster Foretold, Needs Time

Scott Mace, for HealthLeaders Media, October 15, 2013

McNutt thought back to when CMS rolled out software that providers use to achieve Meaningful Use attestation, and how long it took the government to remediate problems in that software. "It does not surprise me," she says, that an IT project of healthcare.gov's scope and scale started out on the wrong foot.

A System Almost Predisposed to Failure
It's easy to focus on the price tag, $643 million or so, and expect it to work better than some Web startup here in Silicon Valley that say started on a shoestring a few weeks ago and yet is serving millions today. While tech's most darling sites have all had their outages, healthcare.gov last week is one for the books, resembling one long running outage.

But remember that the users of those Silicon Valley sites are usually tech-savvy types who have low expectations of a new site's capabilities, and are often attracted by a few glitzy features. In contrast, the nation's health insurance exchanges were defined by Congress—a body not known for designing things of beauty—and implemented by a raft of government contractors who got the job of plodding through an incomprehensible set of rules and regulations while purporting to be the lowest bidder.

It's a system almost predisposed to failure, and I've already received more than one email urging me to point out that the fact that the mere fact that the system is working at all is something of a coding triumph, or, as I put it back in July, something of a miracle.

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3 comments on "HIX, A Disaster Foretold, Needs Time"


Frank Poggio (10/16/2013 at 7:41 PM)
Re: "don't expect them, or healthcare systems, or even Silicon Valley, to fix the health insurance exchange rollout, and neither should anyone else." Wow..so magnanimous! So if we should give them more time why won't DHSS give providers/vendors more time for Stage 2? And I still ask- why didn't DHSS put it's contractor HIX vendors thru the ONC Certification test process as they require of provider vendor systems. From my experience in guiding over forty vendor systems thru the ONC process there is no way any of the HIX systems would have passed. Drop down lists that don't work, repeated system outages, would have killed them in the first pass.

Tyco Brahe (10/16/2013 at 10:08 AM)
This moment-by-moment reporting is so useless. They will fix the portal and we will move forward. In a few years, we will look back at all this "disaster" talk and roll our eyes. When Medicare Part D was rolled out, it was a "disaster" of similar proportions, with seniors completely confused about the choices. Now, NO ONE even talks about it. This is a marathon, not a sprint. All the "disaster" talk is premature.

Jim Brunnemer (10/15/2013 at 4:53 PM)
It certainly looks like it will take time to get healthcare.gov fixed. I'd just note your comment on the timing to avoid the individual penalty is not the end of December......I believe they have said an individual would have to be signed up by mid-February to avoid the penalty as they need to have coverage in place effective before the end of March 2014 (so that really means 3/1/2014).