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Government Medicine United States

Healthcare.gov Official Resigns, Website Still a Disaster 559

Posted by timothy
from the sell-your-stock-in-this-one-oh-wait dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "A government official who helped oversee the bug-riddled Healthcare.gov Website has resigned his post. Tony Trenkle, Chief Information Officer (CIO) for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees Healthcare.gov, will reportedly join the private sector after he departs on November 15. A spokesperson for the Medicare agency refused to say whether he had been forced out, telling reporters: 'Tony made a decision that he was going to move to the private sector and that is what our COO announced yesterday.' Because of his supervisory role, Trenkle is considered a significant player in the Website's development; The New York Times indicated that he was one of two federal officials who signed an internal memo suggesting that security protocols for the Website weren't in place as recently as late September, a few days before Healthcare.gov's launch.Following Trenkle's resignation, Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius admitted to the Senate Finance Committee that Healthcare.gov would require hundreds of fixes. 'We're not where we need to be,' she said. 'It's a pretty aggressive schedule to get to the entire punch list by the end of November.' Sebelius added that she was ultimately accountable for what she termed the 'excruciatingly awful' rollout. Healthcare.gov has experienced massive problems since its Oct. 1 debut. In addition to repeated crashes and slow performance, the Website's software often prevents people from setting up accounts. President Obama has expressed intense frustration with the situation, but insists the Affordable Care Act (ACA) backing the Website remains strong. 'The essence of the law, the health insurance that's available to people is working just fine,' he told reporters in October. 'The problem has been that the website that's supposed to make it easy to apply for insurance hasn't been working.' While the federal government won't release 'official' enrollment numbers until the end of November, it's clear that the Website's backers are losing the battle of public perception."
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Healthcare.gov Official Resigns, Website Still a Disaster

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  • As an outsider. (Score:5, Informative)

    by goruka (1721094) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @11:17AM (#45356285)
    It seems like a giant project that was hurried, kind of like a Windows Vista. Isn't it getting gradually fixed?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You can't fix something that is fatally flawed. The problem isn't the website, the problem is the cluster fuck of a law they passed. No amount of code can fix a bad idea.

      • Re:As an outsider. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by FearTheDonut (2665569) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @11:26AM (#45356397)
        While you might well be correct, the issue at hand is the website. It's a bit disingenuous to say the whole law is broken because of the website. That is, unless the same people who made the law are the ones coding.
        • Re:As an outsider. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by TheNastyInThePasty (2382648) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @11:38AM (#45356521)

          It's like saying your car is broken because the website you tried to buy your car from crashes a lot.

          • Re:As an outsider. (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @12:18PM (#45357035) Homepage Journal

            Well - let's examine this idea.

            Let us suppose that General Motors is incapable of either putting up a website, or of contracting that job out to someone who is competent. Just suppose that General Motors has zero presence on today's internet. None. They are so clueless, that they don't see the need to invest the resources into an online presence. Just pretend that to be true.

            Do you really think that such clueless fools could possibly build a safe, reliable automobile? Do you really?

            That is what we are seeing with ACA. It's perfectly alright that none of the people in politics understand how to put up a website. What is unforgivable, is that they have no idea how to go about hiring competent people to put up their site.

            If they are incapable of attracting and hiring competent people to perform one job, what in the HELL makes anyone think that they can find competent people to perform another job?

            • A few things:

              1) The government does have an online presence. I don't know where this website falls on the scale of complexity compared to its other websites but most government agencies do indeed have some sort of website. This failure seems to be more of an outlier than the norm.

              2) I do expect the government to be better at regulating than giving out successful contracts for two reasons. First, the government lacks control over the contracted company and cannot directly force the company to be successful.

              • by JWW (79176)

                I do expect the government to be better at regulating than giving out successful contracts for two reasons. First, the government lacks control over the contracted company and cannot directly force the company to be successful. Secondly, the government has a lot more experience regulating as it already regulates many industries.

                Wow, those must be some pretty dark rose colored glasses you have on. The list of regulation that government has done extremely poorly is incredibly long.

                I'll just give you three examples, copyright, the patent system, and prohibition. Three examples of absolutely abysmal, destructive outcomes from gov't regulation. Sure patents and copyright used to be sensible, but the more experience that gov't got in regulating them, the worse they got. However, prohibition was a debacle from the moment they started

          • by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @02:16PM (#45358529) Homepage

            All the paint fell off of my honda because of a SQL injection attack.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          When and estimated 93 Million people will lose their insurance so the law can cover 30 Million who didn't have it, that is a failure of the law.
          These numbers are from White House documents.

        • Re:As an outsider. (Score:5, Informative)

          by meburke (736645) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @11:51AM (#45356671)

          Actually, I kind of agree with you; The law may be faulty, but sniping at the website problems won't fix the underlying flaws.

          Economists know that every attempt at price controls over the last 4500 years (approximately) have resulted in shortages of the goods/services under control, and higher prices for those goods/services. All I needed to know about Obamacare was that it is a form of price control.

          I'm 65 years old, and I've been tracking the results of Obamacare among the people I know. (NOT a scientific study.) So far, I'm seeing 8 instances of increased insurance costs (including two people who just qualified for Medicare/Medicaid) for every 1 instance of cost savings. It seems that some States, like NY, are benefitting from the increased competition created by allowing offers across State lines.

          It is an Economic Principle that whatever you tax, you will get less of. Obamacare imposes about a 9% additional tax on each employee, and so it is probably going to lead to fewer qualifying jobs in the private sector. The number of part-time and temp jobs seems to be increasing here in Texas, but full-time work is hard to get outside industries such as Medicine and Energy.

          • Re:As an outsider. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by timeOday (582209) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @12:09PM (#45356921)
            The point of the law is to remedy under-insurance, so obviously it will raise insurance costs on average. That's the cost. The benefit is that when people later incur health care expenses, they will collect on the new or improved policies they are now paying more for, instead of paying it all out of pocket, or going broke and pushing the costs on to the rest of us.

            It's just silly to count the cost of insurance without counting the benefits of the coverage.

          • Re:As an outsider. (Score:4, Insightful)

            by iserlohn (49556) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @12:10PM (#45356927) Homepage

            All I needed to know about Obamacare was that it is a form of price control.

            Well well.. so you've made up your mind and just looking for facts to support your case. However, I'm afraid to say, you are wrong.

            First of all, the ACA is not what is understood in economics as price controls. It is not a price floor, nor a price ceiling.

            Secondly, not all price controls are bad. Some are necessary as the market is not always optimal. Most of the time they are enacted to even out bargaining power discrepancies, and it generally makes the economy more efficient when done correctly. For example, there is a reason for the minimum wage - otherwise you have more and more working poor that rely on benefits (however, this didn't stop Wal-Mart due to deficiencies in the minimum wage), or alternatively you can cut all benefits and bring back poor laws and workhouses. There's a reason why we dumped that system.

          • by geekoid (135745)

            "Economists know that every attempt at price controls over the last 4500 years (approximately) have resulted in shortages of the goods/services under control,"
            that's a blatantly false statement. Corn is price controlled. Do you have any problems at all finding corn?
            Price control is more complex then the ignorant statement. DO you even now about price floor? price ceiling? other type of price controls?
            Those where rhetorical, cause clearly you don't.

            " Obamacare imposes about a 9% additional tax on each employ

        • Re:As an outsider. (Score:4, Interesting)

          by smooth wombat (796938) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @12:05PM (#45356865) Homepage Journal
          It's a bit disingenuous to say the whole law is broken because of the website.

          No, the original poster is correct. The law is broken because:
          1. It's not a tax since it raises no revenue
          2. The bill did not originate in the proper house of Congress. It was a retitled bill.
          3. How anyone can think the government can force people to hand money to private companies is simply insane. The last time a government tried this was 238 years ago, and we all know the result of that experiment.
          4. It violates ones privacy under the 9th Amendment and most likely several portions of HIPPA.

          Plain and simple, the law is broken and only exists because the activist Republican Justice John Roberts doesn't grasp basic Constitutional issues such as limitations on governmental power over the people.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Yet the KY site is running just fine and has good enrollment. That would indicate it's the website at the moment. You can't blame the law until it actually goes into effect and we see the results. Well you can blame the law but you'll just be another one of those haters you isn't using evidence based arguments.

    • Well maybe, but Microsoft had the advantage of being able to fire incompetent employees. No bid awards typically have far less to due with performance and more to do with maximizing payment.
      • Was this no-bid? I'm given to understand it was standard federal bidding process, but I haven't actually looked into that particular facet.

    • It doesn't matter, because the people raising the complaints don't understand software engineering in the slightest. If anyone here has ever released a first version of entire multi-function web-application without a lot of bugs on release day, they almost certainly spent a positively absurd amount of time(like a year or more) on nothing but QA.

      Every single person inside our industry ought to know that software engineers produce 10x as many features as other engineers with 1000x as many defects(and that's

      • It doesn't matter, because the people raising the complaints don't understand software engineering in the slightest. If anyone here has ever released a first version of entire multi-function web-application without a lot of bugs on release day, they almost certainly spent a positively absurd amount of time(like a year or more) on nothing but QA.

        Every single person inside our industry ought to know that software engineers produce 10x as many features as other engineers with 1000x as many defects(and that's low balling it) in a given timespan.

        All I know is +$200m website budget(in excess of $600m total for entire system) pays for a lot of QA and since the project appearently didn't even go to the lowest bidder they dont get to claim lack of resources...

        Also there is a world of difference between having bugs and being incapable of performing to the minimium requirement specification.

        • Re:As an outsider. (Score:5, Informative)

          by i kan reed (749298) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @11:49AM (#45356643) Homepage Journal

          That $600MM figure is, naturally, a fabrication. That's the total amount of all software contract work by the entire department of health and human services in the time-frame of 2009-2013. Needless to say, if you can't imagine what other outlays that might include, you're crazy. $93MM(the real number) is still a lot, but 9 women can't delivery a baby in a month.

      • by cusco (717999)

        The sacrificial lamb has been slaughtered, fingers can now be pointed, and now Washington will be happy and work fixing the site can proceed.

      • Re:As an outsider. (Score:4, Informative)

        by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland.yahoo@com> on Thursday November 07, 2013 @12:19PM (#45357057) Homepage Journal

        "..they almost certainly spent a positively absurd amount of time(like a year or more) on nothing but QA."
        every agile managed project I have done had an absurd low number of bugs on releas. as in less then 20.
        And we are talking every where from 20K LoC to over a million LoC

        Did you know facebook rolls out changes to production every 11.5 seconds?

    • by QilessQi (2044624)

      If you're not a US Citizen, you might not be aware that the new healthcare law which Healthcare.gov was built to service was advanced by the current President (a Democrat) amid much controversy, and the opposition party (Republican) is firmly against it. There have been media blitzes (propaganda efforts, if you will) on both sides of the political fence around the failure of the website. I think all parties can agree that it has been a bit of a political embarrassment for the President.

      So, yes, this is a

      • Re:As an outsider. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by cdrudge (68377) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @11:45AM (#45356605) Homepage

        I think all parties can agree that it has been a bit of a political embarrassment for the President.

        I'm not sure how much of a political embarrassment it really is. Yeah it should be working, but I'm not sure embarrassment is the right word. The right wants to make the website it an embarrassment, but they would want to paint whatever happens as an embarrassment even if the website worked perfectly. The left wishes the website would have worked. But with close to 2 months left before anyone is required to have insurance, there's still time.

        Look at previous administrations for more embarrassing things. Bush with his wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, lies about WMD, and everything that resulted in the "War on Terrorism". That's an embarrassment. With Clinton, the affair with Monica Lewinsky and all that came with that was an embarrassment.

        If Obama is going to be embarrassed politically, I think it should be more for his domestic and international spying programs.

      • Re:As an outsider. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @11:49AM (#45356657)

        "If you're not a US Citizen"

        The whole world is aware. We all follow US politics. It's just so entertaining - like professional wrestling, but with slightly less violence. Our own politicians are mostly all very sensible and boring, nowhere near so much fun to watch.

    • I just wonder how they will maintain security protocols with all these different entities they are bringing in last minute to the help fix the code. If they screw up and don't protect user information, things will get a lot worse.
    • Re:As an outsider. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Presto Vivace (882157) <marshall@prestovivace.biz> on Thursday November 07, 2013 @11:50AM (#45356665) Homepage Journal
      lambert strether is doing the best post by post analysis of what went wrong [correntewire.com]. It is clear from the posts that he has experience with IT and web implementation projects, so it is written from a techie's point of view.
  • by FearTheDonut (2665569) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @11:20AM (#45356323)
    I hear Microsoft is looking for a CEO..
  • Accountable? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jamesl (106902) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @11:23AM (#45356359)

    Sebelius added that she was ultimately accountable for what she termed the 'excruciatingly awful' rollout.

    Accountable how? Will she get a black mark on her annual review? She still has her job.

    • I want her, and everyone else in this debacle, to work for free until the site is fixed, with no back pay later on.

      *That* is accountability.

    • Re:Accountable? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Guppy06 (410832) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @11:52AM (#45356683)

      She still has her job.

      Senate Republicans refuse to allow any Obama appointments to move forward as it is, none of them are as high-profile a target as HHS Secretary right now.

      It's either Sebelius or leaving the job vacant until 2017.

      • by Straif (172656)

        Obama has a higher percentage of appointments pass confirmation then Bush did. He has however, attempted to make fewer appointments than either Bush or Clinton which leave a lot of voluntary vacancies.

    • I'm sure she's taking a lot more shit in the press than your average Secretary does, especially when you consider the ACA battle. Not saying feel sorry for her, just that she probably thought it would be a cushy job, and she instead deals with a lot of outrage, both manufactured and real. Maybe she means accountable for her expectations, not accountable as in what you or I would consider accountable.
  • by Dunbal (464142) * on Thursday November 07, 2013 @11:26AM (#45356393)

    "will reportedly join the private sector"

    Is that what unemployed people are called nowadays? No wonder reported unemployment is so low, contrary to all observable evidence. Certainly he won't be going into a "job" straight away - who in their right mind will hire him?

    • by slew (2918) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @11:36AM (#45356509)

      As with all politically connected people, I'm sure a soft landing "place" was made for him in one of the companies owned/operated by one of the generous political donors to the current overlord administration's party, so he would be comfortable vacating his current cushy post before he became a total embarassment.

      This is probably not too dissimilar to how some dictators seem to find themselves living with an annual stipend in some remote area of the world...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Everyone involved needs to be fired.

    Watched that Kathleen Sebelius yesterday. She basically read the marketing spiel for 20 minutes. Anytime she was asked a question she had no real answers.
    She has no clue at all what shes doing. How long it's really going to take. Or how broken it really is. She has failed completely at her JOB.
    And this wasn't some last minute thing. They have had YEARS and a huge pile of money to get done a simple task.

    Fire her.

    And then start an investigation to find out where all of

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Obama never envisioned Obamacare actually working. It was just a means to an end - single payer. It was designed to be an utter failure from the get-go.

    • by Lendrick (314723) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @12:10PM (#45356935) Homepage Journal

      I have to say, this is one dumbass conspiracy theory I wish had a grain of truth to it.

  • by Salgak1 (20136) <`ten.ysaekaeps' `ta' `kaglas'> on Thursday November 07, 2013 @11:34AM (#45356489) Homepage

    My previous analysis [slashdot.org]

    Simply:

    One: Schedule Fail. Compounded by late award of the contracts to develop/influence:

    Contracts Awarded Dec 2011 [wsj.com]

    Two: massive requirements base to develop specification for development and implementation: The PPACA was 1800+ pages, and the associated regulations are 10,000+ pages, and are STILL changing. Can't develop without a spec and design, with big parts of requirements still changing.

    Three: inadequate testing. The above-referenced link states that security testing BEGAN in August 2013, less than two months before rollout. There's no mention of load testing.
    UPDATE: There WAS load testing, Radio reports say it was tested with a 1000-user simultaneous load. EXPECTED was 60K simultaneous users. . .
    However, the only CONCRETE numbers I've found [mediaite.com] say it crashed at several hundred simultaneous users. . . .

    Four: Integration issues. The Obamacare Exchange system combines data from numerous agencies and systems, and integrating between them is always a difficult task.

    Five: Identity-management. This is in parallel to Integration, somehow all identities need to be federated into a single overarching system.

    Twenty-three (now 25) months, even with a top-flight team, would simply not be enough to do this: this is a 5-7 year job. . .

    • by DeBaas (470886)

      Even if there was load testing, in my experience load and stress testing is within the test community not something that is very well developed. Two days ago I spoke about performance testing on a 4 day conference ( http://www.eurostarconferences.com/ [eurostarconferences.com] ) and my talk was the only one that dealt with performance.

      In my view, this fields needs to be better developed. Tests usually focus just on response times, based on usage profiles that are practically fantasy. Monitoring of the systems is minimal, and the que

  • Misread (Score:4, Funny)

    by tompaulco (629533) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @11:36AM (#45356505) Homepage Journal
    I misread it as "healthcare.gov officialLY resigns". I was about to throw a party.
  • by ErichTheRed (39327) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @11:47AM (#45356625)

    I've been on enough big-bang massive IT projects to know that this is no different from anything we've seen before.
    - Ambiguous requirements that aren't settled, and constantly changing (stuff that even "agile" can't account for): This is always a killer. Even an "agile" project can't have the framework ripped down and rebuilt at the last second...some decisions have to be permanent.
    - Contractors who just want to collect money : Outsourcing is always more expensive and produces worse results than if you do it in house. The only thing you save is the cost of employees, but you pay more in the long run.
    - Entrenched groups who don't want to see it succeed: ERP implementations often fail because the business processes that need to be changed are held up by people or groups that don't want their job changed or automated away, and have powerful friends.
    - Massive time pressure: I don't know why software development and IT are so different from engineering projects, but there is still the persistent myth that you can throw bodies at a late project to make it come in on time. You can't do this with a construction project of any reasonable size...there are still dependencies. Yet, there's always pressure to make arbitrary dates.

    Seriously, replace "government healthcare insurance marketplace connecting people with thousands of insurers" with "SAP implementation", and you see the same problems.

    I can see why they made this guy resign though -- someone has to be the scapegoat. At one of the companies I worked at, the much-loved founder of the company was thrown out by the board (it had grown into a public company) after a massive operations disaster that forced him to go out and publicly apologize. Some of it might have been willful blindness, but executives tend to say "I'm paying millions of dollars, just make this happen and don't bother me with details." Consulting companies love these kind of executives....

    • by tubs (143128)

      "Entrenched groups who don't want to see it succeed: ERP implementations often fail because the business processes that need to be changed are held up by people or groups that don't want their job changed or automated away, and have powerful friends."

      I've been reading a report on the London Ambulance Services fiasco in 1994, and the final report mentioned something similar - you can't expect a computer system to change working practices, the practices have to change first.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      "Ambiguous requirements that aren't settled, and constantly changing "
      But that can be mitigated with a good underlying architecture. The parts they are changing are mostly business rule changes. Properly architecture business layer can handle that.

  • by RogueWarrior65 (678876) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @11:55AM (#45356731)

    Here's the root of the problem and would explain why Obama, Sebelius, and other bureaucrats are sticking to their guns. They believe that they are smarter than the software engineers charged with building this monstrosity. From my own experience, I once got into a pissing contest with a senior VP over something I had developed for the department. He had no background in software or computers. None. Even though the guy had a Mac on his desk, he didn't understand the concept of windows and insisted on using a single one to view his files opening hundreds of turn-down triangles. Hundreds. But I digress. The guy only understood image, flash, and how things looked. His precious weekly schedules had to look pretty rather than be functional to the point where the secretaries were spending an entire day putting together a weekly schedule in QuarkXPress. So I built a database system (with the assistance of one of the secretaries) to generate these schedules. But the database engine we had available to us, while it could use fancy fonts, didn't understand variable character widths. So printing schedules using dingbats was a nightmare. During a presentation, some flunky asked if we could make some changes. The secretary said "Well I don't know. We're jumping through a lot of hoops to make it do what you're seeing now. I don't know if it's possible." The VP said "It's possible" without even asking me. I nearly quit that day. As a matter of interest, a few of my coworkers and I had a daily reading from The Dilbert Principle.

    Point is that Obama and his minions don't understand that you can't set arbitrary deadlines for technology when they know nothing about it. It's the same as ignorant politicians setting lofty fuel economy standards without talking to automotive engineers to find out if the goal is realistic or even possible. The politicians believe their own hype in that they think they are smarter than the engineers. At the very least. One can also make the case that unrealistic goals aren't set out of ignorance but by design to suit their ideology. E.g. Set a pollution standard bar so high that it either isn't possible or that it's so expensive that nobody will bother and voila, the source of that pollution is gone taking all the benefits (jobs, consumer savings, useful product) with it. To the politician, the ends justify the means because in their mind, the citizenry is too stupid to understand it.

  • by whitroth (9367) <whitrothNO@SPAM5-cent.us> on Thursday November 07, 2013 @02:07PM (#45358409) Homepage

    I literally just went to the site on seeing this article. It took, as the Computerworld article yesterday said on the benchmarking it had done, about 3-4 sec to get to the home page. Once I told noscript to allow it, I then went to "look at options before signing up" (or whatever it was), and it responded at least as fast as slashdot loads.

    So, what is this "still a disaster"? Is the headline writer/OP right up there with Ron Paul, who let a senior campaign staffer *die* last year during the campaign, because he apparently couldn't be bothered to provide healthcare to even his senior staff, nor pay them enough to buy their own...?

                    mark "enlightened self-interest my ass"

  • by Straif (172656) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @05:23PM (#45360707) Homepage

    News reports are now saying he refused to sign off on the websites security.

    When he wouldn't sign off on the website they went over his head to get a temporary security authorization from his boss, who, despite several warnings about holes throughout the system, didn't seem to have an issue signing off.

    So as it turns out he may have been the only competent person there.

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