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Having Healthcare.gov problems? Help is on the way

Engineers and programmers from Google, Oracle and Red Hat among those working to fix Healthcare.gov

Technology trends and news by Steven Loeb
October 31, 2013 | Comments
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/32ec

I am generally a supporter/defender of President Obama, but I have to say that the buggy and faulty rollout of the Healthcare.gov website has me really annoyed.

Yeah, part of the problem is that states that were supposed to set up their own sites simply decided not to (surprise! the exchanges are working just fine in the states that did) but that doesn't excuse the poor job the federal government did in setting up this site. Some glitches can be expected but, with some much time to prepare, this is really inexcusable. 

Now President Obama is finally bringing in the big guns to fix the thing, with engineers and programmers from some major tech companies, including Google, Oracle and Red Hat, being called in to save the day,  the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced in a blog post on Thursday.

Among those working to fix Healthcare.gov are Michael Dickerson, a site reliability engineer from Google.

"He has expertise in diving into any layer of the tech stack, from the metal to the application code to the people that write it, in order to deliver some of the world's most reliable online services," from Julie Bataille, Director of Communications at CMS, wrote.

Sources close to Google confirmed to VatorNews that the Dickerson is currently on leave from the company. He is working on the site as a personal endeavor, and Google is not involved.

Also helping out is Greg Gershman  of mobile company Mobomo, who has "experience running agile development teams and creating better user experiences when interacting with government," Bataille said. 

But they are only two out of "dozens of software engineers, developers, designers and analysts," who are helping to fix the site. 

After the launch of the site on October 1st, news of people having problems began coming in quickly. the website was reportedly slow, was dropping users and giving insurance wrong information, including counting children as spouses.

Following that embarrassment, President Obama announced a "tech surge" to fix the problems, led by Jeffrey Zients, the future Director of the National Economic Council.

Nobody besides Zients had been officially been named as a part of that effort, which the President has said will fix the websites problems by the end of November, until now. But apparently a big part of the effort in turning it around is getting people on it who really know what they are doing.

Sounds like a pretty sound strategy to me.

One thing that President Obama has on his side, at least for now, is time. Don't forget that open enrollment for the healthcare exchanges does not end until March 31, 2014, and you can bet that many, many people are going to wait for just days before to sign up.

Another encouraging sign for Obama: so far, the public seems to be forgiving of the problems that the website has been experiencing.

An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, conducted from October 25th to 28th, did find that disapproval of the law had ticked up a bit, with 47% saying it was a bad idea, compared to 43% from a couple of weeks ago.

But when asked how they felt about the Healthcare.gov problems, the vast majority said that they were either short-term technical issues that can be fixed, with 37% saying so, or that it was too soon to tell, with 30% giving that answer. That is 67% of the people who are not yet willing to give up on the Affordable Care Act website.

Only 30% said that the design issues were long-term and could not be corrected.

So, yes, the public is showing patience with the rollout as of now. But it is a good idea for Obama to bring in the experts, as you and I both know that will not last much longer.

A spokesperson for Red Hat would not comment on the efforts to help fix the site. 

VatorNews also reached out to Oracle, but they were not available for comment. We will update if we learn more. 

(Image source: http://detroituncut.com)


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