Non-functional Obamacare exchange websites? $500 million estimated to date. 2014? Priceless. (US)

Updated/Revised for breaking news and analysis, 12-14 October (US). Much new information noted in dark blue. (Grab your tea or coffee…this is a long one as this story rolls on.)

The mainstream reports continue to build that both the Federal site, which provides health exchange enrollment for 36 states, and many of the state-run health insurance exchanges (14 plus District of Columbia) are a nightmare of programming glitches and simply don’t work. It is not the demand–which has been high but not unanticipatedly so with an initial 8 million hits–but more disturbingly, the programming appears to be is unsound.  “Computer experts” quoted by CBS This Morning are making statements like “It wasn’t designed well, it wasn’t implemented well, and it looks like nobody tested it,” going on to say ” It’s not even ready for beta testing for my book. I would be ashamed and embarrassed if my organization delivered something like that.” A more technical dissection of the site’s multiple system architecture problems is provided by Reuters here, with the best quote “The site basically DDOS’d itself,” he said. (DDOS–distributed denial of service, a hacking technique but here, the website overwhelmed itself!) 

Counting the cost

A rough calculation of the cost has been made on a tech website, Digital Trends. Andrew Couts (who is pro-Obamacare) ran some public numbers on the IT cost of setting up the Federal part of the exchanges and add in associated 2012-13 costs, and arrives at $500 millionnot including the $2 billion to build out and operate the exchanges in 2014 (General Accounting Office). Larger numbers north of $600 million have been bandied about, but this Editor will go for now with Mr. Couts’ perhaps low estimate which has been supported by more mainstream reporting. (more…)