The rollout of the federal Exchanges has been a disaster.
There’s no way to sugar coat it; whether it’s a design, technology, or communications problem (more likely all three), they are NOT working. And yes, there’s a clear management/leadership failure here; the Obama Administration failed twice;
- first – designing the right development process (it appears that among other things, political decisions caused them to hold back on issuing detailed guidance to key stakeholders, i.e. health insurers)
- second – encouraging Americans to use the Exchanges on day One, when they should have known they were not ready.
While the feds and their contractors are working feverishly to fix things on the fly, I’m hearing from my tech expert colleagues that they’d be far better off taking the Exchange off line, fixing the problems, then re-starting it.
Among the issues/problems, there’s:
- a requirement that enrollees enter all their personal info before they can look at and compare plans
- a lack of server capacity to handle the traffic volume
- a lack of communication between the Exchange and the various health plans (this may be the most critical problem over the next few months as folks get cancellation notices from their current insurers and are required to sign up via the Exchanges)
- erstwhile enrollees can’t find out if their doctors are in any of the plans available to them.
HHS bears a lot of responsibility for this, and perhaps Sec. Sibelius should be fired. However, that would require the President to nominate a new Secretary, and given the hyper-partisan approval process, any new Secretary would face uncertain-at best-chances of approval by the Senate. And yes, President Obama is ultimately responsible, and therefore it is incumbent upon him that this gets fixed now, and gets fixed correctly.
Better to shut down the Exchanges now, get them fixed, test the heck out of them using feedback from early users, and get them back up when they are really ready..
If that requires delaying the mandate for a few months, so be it.
What does this mean for you?
A very big, and very painful, lesson on how not to do big IT projects, and an equally big and painful lesson on the perils of allowing politics to trump common sense.