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How To FIx Healthcare.gov: Go Open-Source!

timothy posted about 9 months ago | from the intelligent-default dept.

United States 307

McGruber writes "Over at Bloomberg Businessweek, Paul Ford explains that the debacle known as healthcare.gov makes clear that it is time for the government to change the way it ships code: namely, by embracing the open source approach to software development that has revolutionized the technology industry." That seems like the only way to return maximum value to the taxpayers, too.

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307 comments

How can BusinessInsider say that???? (1, Flamebait)

sconeu (64226) | about 9 months ago | (#45183005)

Don't they know that Open Source is Inferior [slashdot.org] ?

Rearrange the deck chairs. (5, Insightful)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 9 months ago | (#45183013)

When your system doesn't work and you are way behind schedule.

Make a radical change and fire someone. That's sure to fix things.

Re:Rearrange the deck chairs. (5, Insightful)

cold fjord (826450) | about 9 months ago | (#45183051)

And add staff, lots more staff. That will make it better, and get the job done faster. (Wasn't that one of the conclusions of The Mythical Man Month [wikipedia.org] ? (Archive.org download [archive.org] ))

Re:Rearrange the deck chairs. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45183143)

Looks like we have a butt hurt moderator.

Re:Rearrange the deck chairs. (4, Informative)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 9 months ago | (#45183489)

Actually, I've been involved in projects where exactly that was required. That site isn't that complicated and there's nothing new and innovative on it. If they brought in the right people and busted ass for a few weeks they could have an open source alternative built and tested. The problem here is it's government and there's no way to just make the kind of executive decisions that would be required to pull it off.

Re:Rearrange the deck chairs. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45183607)

Punish the innocent, Promote the guilty, Reward the uninvolved

I've got a better idea (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45183023)

Prototype and test. Go open source if you want to do so, but it isn't a silver bullet. If you don't test your software under simulated load conditions, you won't know if it will work. And for a work in progress, open source may have a delayed benefit time of several months before you get the feedback you need. People scratch their own itches in open source. They don't necessarily look at the entire system integrity. Only testing will do that.

Re:I've got a better idea (4, Insightful)

Sir_Sri (199544) | about 9 months ago | (#45183393)

And there's no data like real world data for load. At some point you sit down in a room and guess how people are going to use your software. You put it out there, and find out you were wrong.

That is after all, why they did this with a couple of months to spare.

Are there going to be 10 million people over christmas all trying to buy health insurance? Probably, and that's going to cause no end of grief, but there isn't some mystical open source fairy that can tell you how to correctly predict load for a system like this and make all the infrastructure work the way you want it to. Particularly with health care and open source you'd have to deal with thousands of tea party programmers trying to fuck it up too.

Re:I've got a better idea (1)

fizzer06 (1500649) | about 9 months ago | (#45183467)

"simulated load conditions"

What I have learned about the software (from /.), this pig wasn't going to work under any load.

I'm all for it (2, Informative)

cold fjord (826450) | about 9 months ago | (#45183025)

I'm all for it just as long as the mandates are delayed until the infrastructure is really done this time.* When does the RFP go out?

* And maybe a "few" other kinks [chicagotribune.com] in the law ironed out.

Re:I'm all for it (1, Insightful)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 9 months ago | (#45183441)

Of course, let's do nothing unless it's perfect. If a few million people suffer or die in the meantime, at least we can look on and say we weren't flawed.

Re:I'm all for it (1, Insightful)

sumdumass (711423) | about 9 months ago | (#45183517)

I would rather do nothing while people suffer and die then do something that causes people to suffer and die. You see, the difference is that on one, the results are the actions of fate and flaws, in the other, the results are the actions of me or you or whoever did whatever.

But more specifically, in this case anyways, if nothing is done, all that will happen is the status quo remains with the added bonus of a tax penalty digging into the pockets of Americans. If the penalty is removed, the same is true without the penalty. If all is fixed, then people can actually use the tools provided to them to avoid the penalty and the status quo is removed.

Re:I'm all for it (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45183643)

Shut up, dumb ass. Buying health insurance isn't going to kill anybody.

Re:I'm all for it (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | about 9 months ago | (#45183677)

Poverty kills more people than all health problems combined.

Re:I'm all for it (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45183651)

That is a load of bull. There is a difference between insurance and healthcare. The main problem the ACA was supposedly trying to solve was a 15% uninsured rate. There were many reasons why that 15% didn't have coverage, including no small part of it that could afford insurance, but didn't want to pay for it. So the Democratic party grabbed hold of 100% of the market, not the 15% that was the problem, and started rearranging things with a hasty, thrown together plan that was scraped up from whatever they thought they could pass in short order with very unusual parliamentary maneuvering (remember "deemed to pass"?) and written in part by a "progressive" think tank [realclearpolitics.com] . The result still won't cover 100%, not even close, has raised rates for many people, has ended up costing many people both their insurance and income since their work hours were cut back, caused economic contraction due to businesses pulling headcounts under the limits, and plenty of other problems. And the best part is, they expect it to ultimately fail so that they can force single payer on everyone! How does that figure into your BS comment "let's do nothing unless it's perfect. If a few million people suffer or die in the meantime "? How about this - why don't we do something deliberately, in a planned fashion, that has wide support in society? How about we just don't throw crap to say we did something? Are you planning to take responsibility for the people that die without insurance now that this bad piece of law, this planned failure has passed? One of the principal precepts of medical ethics is, "first, do no harm". The idea should be to do something that is both useful and productive, not just "something" that is already expected to be destructive and fail. The cure is going to be worse than the disease in this case. But at least it will be hideously expensive. For some reason I doubt you read much in the way of criticism of the law, but your conscience will be clear because "something" was done.

At this point (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45183045)

It's probably not even salvageable. Starting over would be the best choice. But, let's be honest, even a correctly functioning website still doesn't alleviate the massive problems inherent in the law itself. It was a pork laden bill designed for corporate crony interests, which is structurally why it will never work.

No, having government oversight of such a large part of our economy was a bad decision. There are no winners here.

Re:At this point (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45183131)

Brilliant, instead we should led the corporate crony interests control it directly, like they have been.

Re:At this point (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45183265)

The government isn't working nor would companies... But that doesn't mean a better solution doesn't exist. Just means we haven't found one yet.

Ah, the IBM way... (1)

billcarson (2438218) | about 9 months ago | (#45183047)

Let the community fix your broken products for free.
I don't know if that is ethically responsible for a government to do.

Re:Ah, the IBM way... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45183449)

I think if the company/government fronts the cash for some full-timers to oversee and own the project (i.e. take responsibility when it goes bad), then the Open Source model is perfectly ethical. Also, it wouldn't cost more than half a Billion (with a B) dollars.

The way I see it, the Product would be pretty shoddy without community contributions (because that's how closed source tends to be) except with Open Source the product can actually improve quickly.

How interesting. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45183049)

http://torrentfreak.com/obama-administration-uses-pirated-code-on-healthcare-gov-131019/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TorrentfreakBits+%28TorrentFreak+-+Bits%29&utm_content=FaceBook

"As it turns out, the Government website uses the open source software DataTables, which is a plug-in for the jQuery Javascript library.

While using open-source software is fine, the makers of Healthcare.gov decided to blatantly remove all references to its owners or the original copyright license."

Whether it's open source or not is irrelavant... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45183053)

...what's important out of all this is the appreciation that those unaffiliated with programming should now have who got us all in this mess to begin with. Maybe now, our leaders, managers, supervisors, etc., etc., will stop breathing down developers' necks and instead of scoffing at these things, will take a few moments to stand back and say, "Wait a minute... This is all being rushed. Let's take our time with all this and execute a properly-developed plan."

I would not want to be on the Healthcare.gov team during all this. Just imagine the hell they must be going through...

It failed because they went with the lowest bidder (5, Insightful)

Pinhedd (1661735) | about 9 months ago | (#45183075)

healthcare.gov didn't fail because the designers didn't use open source software at every point in the chain - if the rumors are to be believed, an audit found open source code in there that had simply had its licence removed - it failed because it was designed by the lowest bidder and was not subject to the rigorous testing regime demanded by a national service.

FOSS is great for reigning in costs, but it is not a patch for unskilled developers or a crutch for incompetent project managers who are unable to keep the project on track and within scope.

Re:It failed because they went with the lowest bid (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45183171)

Fuck you Micro$oft shill. How much did Gates pay you to say that? How many chairs did you throw??!?!!?
 
HERP!!!

Re: ...the ONLY bidder (2, Interesting)

cirby (2599) | about 9 months ago | (#45183301)

Yes, it was the lowest, but there apparently weren't any other bidders, or at least none that anyone can find or name.

You see, they didn't actually put it out to open bidding, and instead awarded the contract to someone with political connections.

They used something called "task orders," which allows bureaucrats to completely bypass open bids. Basically, if you win one government contract somewhere along the way (even for a completely different project), it's possible for the government to award you future contracts on other projects without worrying about all of that pesky "low bidder" stuff.

Re:It failed because they went with the lowest bid (5, Informative)

moschner (3003611) | about 9 months ago | (#45183455)

Management is the reason why healthcare.gov has been such as disaster. Open source or not, it wouldn't have mattered. They didn't even get to start coding until this spring, because the government was so slow in issuing specifications for the site. Then as if the tight deadlines were not enough, Administrators kept issuing changes to the site up until last few weeks of September (despite an October 1st launch date). It wasn't little a change here or there either.

One of the last big overhauls was making it so people had to register before they could browse the plans. This was apparently becasue they wanted people to see what the price would be with the subsidy. The idea being that for many people the price before the credit would scare them away from buying in.

There is also more info on this at the new york times [nytimes.com]

Re:It failed because they went with the lowest bid (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45183565)

it failed because it was designed by the lowest bidder

Wrong.

It failed because it was a crony capitalism project, gifted by the Obama administration to a former campaign worker.

http://tealmedia.com/ ... Teal Media was selected as the lead visual design team on the redesign of HealthCare.gov. Check out The Atlantic article about the redesign.

http://tealmedia.com/index.html#about ... Jessica Teal - Principle ... Jessica founded Teal Media following her successful stint as Design Manager for the 2008 Obama presidential campaign.

Re:It failed because they went with the lowest bid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45183629)

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/06/healthcaregov-code-developed-by-the-people-and-for-the-people-released-back-to-the-people/277295/

Atlantic article the Teal Media website refers to.

Dave Cole, a lead developer at Development Seed, wrote in a blog post this March. Cole, who served as a senior advisor to the United States chief information officer and deputy director of new media at the White House

More cronies.

Reading the article, it should be obvious, how clueless these people are, or, what lengths they are willing to go to in order to sell their lies to the american public.

Re:It failed because they went with the lowest bid (5, Interesting)

cold fjord (826450) | about 9 months ago | (#45183699)

It failed because they went with the lowest bidder

It didn't fail because they went with the lowest bidder. This was apparently a "sole source" contract. They just added another task onto an existing contract.

Meet CGI Federal, the company behind the botched launch of HealthCare.gov [washingtonpost.com]

CGI's business model depends on embedding itself deeply within an institution.

"The ultimate aim is to establish relations so intimate with the client that decoupling becomes almost impossible," read one profile of the company. ...

CGI Federal's winning bid stretches back to 2007, when it was one of 16 companies to get certified on a $4 billion "indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity" contract for upgrading Medicare and Medicaid's systems. Government-Wide Acquisition Contracts — GWACs, as they're affectionately known — allow agencies to issue task orders to pre-vetted companies without going through the full procurement process, but also tend to lock out companies that didn't get on the bandwagon originally. According to USASpending.gov, CGI Federal got a total of $678 million for various services under the contract — including the $93.7 million Healthcare.gov job, which CGI Federal won over three other companies in late 2011.

It's also true that CGI Federal began lobbying as it started winning government work. According to OpenSecrets.org, it has spent $800,000 since 2006 lobbying on several different tax and appropriations bills.

Feds reviewed only one bid for Obamacare website design [washingtonexaminer.com]

Rather than open the contracting process to a competitive public solicitation with multiple bidders, officials in the Department of Health and Human Services' Centers for Medicare and Medicaid accepted a sole bidder, CGI Federal, the U.S. subsidiary of a Canadian company with an uneven record of IT pricing and contract performance.

CMS officials are tight-lipped about why CGI was chosen or how it happened. They also refuse to say if other firms competed with CGI, or if there was ever a public solicitation for building Healthcare.gov, the backbone of Obamacare’s problem-plagued web portal....

There is no evidence CMS issued any public solicitation for the Obamacare website contract. The Examiner asked both CMS and CGI for copies of any public solicitation notice for the Healthcare.gov task orders. Neither CMS nor CGI furnished any such public notice.....

The ID/IQ system provides a fast-track contract approval process, but it is much less likely than competitive bidding to secure high quality at a reasonable cost.

“Whenever you have limited competition, but certainly with a sole source or a one-bid offer, the government has to question whether it is going to get the best product at the best price,” said Scott Amey, general counsel for the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit watchdog organization that monitors federal contracting.

Both USAspending.gov, which tracks federal spending, and the FFATA Subaward Reporting System, which specifically tracks contracts, refer to CGI as the lone bidder for the Obamacare website design award.

Each site describes the CGI contract award as the product of “full and open competition,” but CGI is the only bidder listed.

I can't find the link at the moment, but apparently this company is "favored" within the administration.... for some reason.

Open Source rumors? (1)

codeusirae (3036835) | about 9 months ago | (#45183811)

"if the rumors are to be believed, an audit found open source code in there that had simply had its licence removed"

Where are these rumors, do you have a link to the source?

routine IT work (4, Insightful)

globaljustin (574257) | about 9 months ago | (#45183079)

TFA, and virtually everything I've seen on 'Obamacare' are not helpful

First, I've yet to see *one* legitamit (or even fringe) news organization film themselves without editing sit down at a computer and **attempt to enroll in ACA**...if this exits, please post a link

2nd, a major problem of this article (and again virtually every news or analysis on ACA I've seen) is the lack of necessary information distinguishing **STATE EXCHANGES** and the **NATIONAL EXCHANGE**

I hear it mentioned that the two exist, and are different, and I see a map that shows which states have their own ACA program and which do not, therefore defaulting to the Federal system....however I absolutely have not heard any distinction made when any blog/news report/etc mentions 'Obamacare's failures'

3rd, The problems of "Obamacare" are myriad to be sure, but in the coverage of the "rollout of the website" no IT workers are interviews...no one with any expertise actually explains what the problems are...

We can easily understand (if you visit the website) & read a few news reports that the website's "failure" is a timeout when people try to sign up. Again, we don't know if this is the *state* or *federal* exchange, but the point is that the website breaks b/c of too many hits.

Server over capacity.

A few news articles to explain this much, but not any more.

what does /. call 'server over capacity' type problems???

ROUTINE IT WORK

I used to have my CCNA, it has lapsed. I'm not pretending rolling out a functional site like ACA is easy, but it's **well known** how to make a system like that, from a web coding perspective, work.

It's routine IT work done daily all over the world.

So, the real analysis is that the ACA needs more servers.

It's that simple....note 'simple' does not in any way mean "easy"....but the concept is well understood by many IT engineers.

"an open-source approach" is usually helpful in any system experiencing major problems...but this is routine IT work....not in any way a massive failure

if you want to assign blame: blame the contractor that got the 1$billion to develop the ACA site

Re:routine IT work (-1, Troll)

Gothmolly (148874) | about 9 months ago | (#45183217)

Nice to keep beating the 'ACA' drum, but it's really Obamacare. You can't polish a turd.

Re:routine IT work (1)

gnoshi (314933) | about 9 months ago | (#45183337)

1. A rose by any other name
2. Healthcare.gov != Obamacare

Re:routine IT work (5, Insightful)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 9 months ago | (#45183349)

Nice to keep beating the 'ACA' drum, but it's really Obamacare. You can't polish a turd.

Turd or not, it is really called the Affordable Care Act (actually Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) Nowhere in the congressional record will you see a bill called Obamacare or the GOP trying to amend Obamacare. However, you will find plenty of citations to the PPACA.

Re:routine IT work (2, Informative)

_xeno_ (155264) | about 9 months ago | (#45183619)

Obama calls it "Obamacare." That's good enough for me to call it Obamacare.

I'd also call it "broken" and "in desperate need of repeal," but that's because I live in Massachusetts and already watched Romneycare flame out. Enjoy repeating the process, rest of the nation. It was a nice experiment here, too bad it didn't work.

Re:routine IT work (1)

guruevi (827432) | about 9 months ago | (#45183369)

Or RomneyCare!

Re:routine IT work (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45183755)

You can't polish a turd.

Myth: Busted [discovery.com] . You can, in fact, polish a turd.

Re:routine IT work (4, Informative)

complete loony (663508) | about 9 months ago | (#45183261)

Building a web site for a hobby is very different to the approaches you need for massive scale. If you took a look at how the largest web sites scale, they all do things slightly differently, and they all had to fix their scalability problems gradually as their popularity increased. Throwing more CPU and RAM at the problem may be unable to fix anything if their current software design doesn't allow for it.

Re:routine IT work (1)

Sir_Sri (199544) | about 9 months ago | (#45183429)

While that's certainly true, designing a system for 5 million users versus 10 million users is not radically different - but if 10 million users all try and hit your server designed for 5 million you're going to have problems.

There's no way healthcare.gov was done as a 'hobby' type site - they guessed wrong on the load they were going to have and there seem to be some issues with how the insurance companies hook up to the system - neither of which is encouraging but it's not like they intended 100 users and got a million.

Although it would be interesting to know if some of this is largely a 'first day' sort of problem, where the first few weeks just has way too many users and by mid november it will be more or less settled. And then all the people who didn't sign up will panic and need to over christmas and there will be problems again.

Re:routine IT work (1)

complete loony (663508) | about 9 months ago | (#45183617)

But even when designing for 5 million users, it's very difficult to test for that load without having 5 million actual users. There will inevitably be a bottleneck you didn't think of that fails under real loads, that you didn't or couldn't test for. A bottleneck that can't simply be fixed with more servers.

Re:routine IT work (4, Insightful)

adri (173121) | about 9 months ago | (#45183743)

Why do people keep saying that over and over again?

It's easy. You write a test suite that pretends to be a real user. You script it so there's some actions that aren't just "do A do B do C." You make them make errors. You have them put in garbage details. You have them fill out the forms incorrectly or incompletely. You have them skip pages or press "back".

Then you add a "pretend I'm the internet!" layer in between that simulates latency, so you make sure that your servers can handle the number of concurrent requests going on. A lot of not-so-seasoned web developers still fall for the "it worked on the LAN to 100,000 users, why not on the internet?" latency fallacy. Increased latency (due to RTT, packet drops, TCP retransmits, etc) leads to having more and more sessions going concurrently. That ties up resources at the server end.

Then you add a "pretend shit breaks!" layer. Ie, the user internet connection breaks. They forget and come back after a while, and hit the restart page. The connection dies half way during the transaction.

Then, once you've written that, you create 5 million instances of that. 100,000 per box sounds about right.

This isn't 1995. Computers are really god damned fast.

-adrian

Re:routine IT work (2)

Bartles (1198017) | about 9 months ago | (#45183315)

It's not possible to film it unedited. It took me more than 3 hours to do, and my application was still f'd up to the point I can't buy insurance.

time compression (aka 'fast forwarding' the edit) (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about 9 months ago | (#45183459)

n/t

Re:routine IT work (2)

phantomfive (622387) | about 9 months ago | (#45183329)

Testing was scheduled to begin the week before the site went live [cnbc.com] . Do you really think it's just a problem of adding more servers?

of course not (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about 9 months ago | (#45183507)

Do you really think it's just a problem of adding more servers?

as some very helpful individual elucidated in a different post on this thread: "its not like building a hobby site"

if you notice, my original post assumed a level of IT knowledge on behalf of the reader (you)

i'm saying I havent heard any problems reported professionally whatsoever, and of the reports that **do** exist mention **only** problems that, at the core, are routine IT Engineering problems

I'm demanding better journalism (re: TFA) and smarter commentary from us, /., b/c we are the kind who know this stuff (hence my assumption that you know something of IT)

who else will explain things but us (experts)?

who ever has?

the real experts need to be heard...let's speak coherently!

Re:of course not (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 9 months ago | (#45183595)

Beginning testing a week before going live may be unfortunately common, but it's also a recipe for disaster.

so routine IT work...in other words (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about 9 months ago | (#45183673)

so you're agreeing that the reports of 'Obamacare Failure' are based on faulty journalism, and that, further, what has been reported are simple IT Engineering solutions?

that's what I'm hearing...b/c you say this:

Beginning testing a week before going live may be unfortunately common, but it's also a recipe for disaster.

right...so you're saying that the contractor who was paid $1Billion to 'roll out' the site made a "common" mistake that most /. readers would catch?

glad you agree?

Re:so routine IT work...in other words (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 9 months ago | (#45183689)

You only hear what you want to.

Re:routine IT work (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45183805)

It's a pretty bad failure. I did successfully create my account -- and it felt a bit slow, but it did end up succeeding. The username/password requirements are fucking terrible, but I did manage to create an account. It took 4 tries to login successfully, but it kept timing out (after several minutes) when sending my request to eidm.cms.gov.

This site should have never gone live as is.

That being said, the site looks nice when it works. Performance issues and other quality issues need to be addressed ASAP.

They already tried this. (1)

Seumas (6865) | about 9 months ago | (#45183099)

The government already tried this. Remember their $18m Drupal websites over the last few years? Just because it *can* improve the process and *can* reduce the costs doesn't mean government will manage to accomplish that. They can make the best open source just as shitty and expensive as the worst proprietary, with great ease.

Re:They already tried this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45183147)

Could be true but I'd bet everything I have that the conclusion you elude to is more likely to experience an outcome of increased monetary surplus versus the inverse.

Genius idea (0)

MarkvW (1037596) | about 9 months ago | (#45183115)

If the program had a good administrator, it would really engage some geeks on matters of vital health care policy, and it would work wonders for transparency.

If it had a fair or poor administrator, it would just be a piece of shit.

Healthcare.gov is not Facebook (4, Interesting)

Twillerror (536681) | about 9 months ago | (#45183119)

Am I the only one that thinks things have gotten a bit hyperbolic. I hear a lot of non technical people talking about how "bad" the architecture is.

This is a new product and has more users a few weeks in then most of the big boys had in over a year.

We are not selling a iPhone or a plane ticket here. This is a complex infrastructure with lots of back end interactions. The front end is fairly modern. They haven't gotten around to minimizing and consolidating the JS files, but that will come I'm sure.

I've gotten through the sign up process, they added some stuff to do some ad-hoc shopping. I've seen much more dragging of feet by supposed enterprise players. What are we 20 days into this enormous platform? Most of the people complaining don't even need the damn thing because they already have insurance.

At the end of the day the exchanges are not even selling insurance. Insurance companies are doing that. It's like using googles shopping feature. Ultimately the insurance company is Amazon.com. If you need the insurance you'll go directly to the person selling it. Hell we probably should have started with the exchanges being nothing more than a fancy craigslist.

People who need insurance because they are sick or scared will get it. They will get the subsidies etc. The vast majority of these so called "healthy young" are just declining insurance through there employers. They just have to fill out a bunch of paper work with their HR department.

At the end of the day healthcare.gov is something to help people get insurance. The subsides and the new rules are what will get it for them.

Re:Healthcare.gov is not Facebook (2)

Bartles (1198017) | about 9 months ago | (#45183325)

ehealthinsurance.com, does everything healthcare.gov is supposed to do. It works exceptionally well.

Re:Healthcare.gov is not Facebook (1)

jsepeta (412566) | about 9 months ago | (#45183375)

But it fails for me in the sign-up phase. That means that it's not even touching the supposed complex infrastructure. I can't even get a fucking account started.

Can't (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45183125)

They can't utilize talent they can't control. If they tried then inconvenient questions would be posed, like "why can't we just show them the cost of plans?" Instead, they need people that obey and build a site that deliberately obscures costs behind subsidies and keeps citizen outrage to a minimum.

So no, they won't be employing uncooperative talent that might fail to appreciate the political sensitives involved.

Typical National, 1.0 launch in early few weeks (4, Informative)

kervin (64171) | about 9 months ago | (#45183153)

I understand the political grandstanders on both sides using this in their latest talking points but I really expected a bit more from Slashdot. Crashing Websites, Grumbling Users: Obamacare's Debut Is a Typical Tech Launch [businessweek.com] is the most balanced and informed article I've seen written on this topic.

Basically the webs has been out for little 2-3 weeks now. It's a National rollout. And it's all on 1.0 code. Of course there will be issues. Network design is done using estimates, but scaling is done using metrics. Load-testing with a 100K concurrent user target will not help you when 200K users show up at your door.

This is all business as usual at the start of the sign-up period. Where users can also call in their applications and also fill them out in person. I'd be surprised if they couldn't mail in their applications as well.

Re:Typical National, 1.0 launch in early few weeks (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | about 9 months ago | (#45183797)

You do know that shooting towards the middle doesn't automatically make something balanced, right?

If one side is right and the other side is complete spin, then the middle is just less spin than complete spin. Given this, under your definition of "balanced" the spinners can arbitrarily control where the "balanced" point is by ramping up or ramping down the amount of spin as necessary.

The fact is that many people are required by law to use this thing within the next 71 days, but it continues to not work.

Holy crapfest, Batman! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45183161)

Take a shitty website, and pile on more feces! Genius! Poo-pourri couldn't even cover up that smell!

or get rid of it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45183177)

entirely!

This misses the point (2, Interesting)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 9 months ago | (#45183179)

Not only did they not want to go open source they offered the contract to ONE company. There was no open bid.

It gets worse. They also didn't want the programmers available for congressional subpoena. The whole thing was done as secretively and opaquely as possible.

This isn't a failure of system design. Its idiots destroying thing by trying to do everything in the most sneaky and underhanded manner possible.

Answer this... if we knew everything about Obamacare at the time of voting that we know now... would it have passed?

No.

Which is why they don't tell us anything. They don't respect your vote. You don't get to decide. Your opinion is worthless. They will do what they want to do. And if you want something else they will lie to your face.

Was the IRS attacking political opponents of the president on purpose? Of course not. Until it was proven that they were.

Was the NSA tracking Americans domestically intentionally? Of course not. Until it was proven that they were.

Was the ATF selling guns to the drug cartels and then not arresting anyone? Of course not. Until it was proven that they were.

They don't care what is right or wrong or what you want or deserve. All irrelevant.

They have the power and you do what they say or else. The government has gotten completely out of control and it won't get better until pretty much everyone in power is removed.

Re:This misses the point (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45183401)

Typical wingnut bullshit.

Re:This misses the point (2)

guruevi (827432) | about 9 months ago | (#45183419)

And do you think it would've made any difference depending on how you voted? No. Romney would've implemented RomneyCare and the IRS, NSA and ATF would've still been corrupt because those institutions transcend administrations and politics. The government in the US has transcended any politics and choices, they are simply there, large, slow and corrupt not belonging to anyone really but typically favoring the things that are equally large, slow and corrupt but feeds them.

Most intelligent comments of the week . . . .. (1)

sgt_doom (655561) | about 9 months ago | (#45183695)

were made by Karmashock! Bravo!!!!!!!

False. No proof there was only 1 bidder (2)

kervin (64171) | about 9 months ago | (#45183803)

Open Source is not a Panacea (5, Insightful)

rockmuelle (575982) | about 9 months ago | (#45183187)

Look, I use open source all the time and have contributed to many projects and ran a few. I love open source just as much as the next slashdotter.

BUT, broad statements like "open source will fix healthcare.gov" don't add anything to the conversation. What if it was built on open source and it failed? Would we be making the same claims about commercial software? "If only they had used WebSphere and DB2!! Everything would have been wonderful!".

No. No. And. No.

As many people have already pointed out, the problems with healthcare.gov are mostly the same ones that plague many large scale IT projects. Insufficient testing, complex interactions between many existing complex systems (which are hard to get right), consultants that get paid for code delivered, working or not, and so on.

Now, TFA actually makes the argument that healthcare.gov as an _open platform_ would be a good idea. It goes on to point out that that's one thing that makes some of the bigger web apps successful: they are platforms for building apps rather than apps themselves. How much of that is true is open for debate (is google really a beautiful platform or is it a bunch of hacks held together by duct tape? only google engineering knows for sure...) , but as a goal, healthcare.gov as a platform isn't a bad idea.

However, platforms don't just materialize from thin air. In fact, building a platform before you have apps is a recipe for failure. It's usually only after the third or fourth app that the patterns emerge that make a platform possible. It takes time for good platforms to evolve.

Given that, designing healthcare.gov from the beginning as a platform would probably have failed, too. The developers would have created a wonderful platform for some vague requirements that likely didn't actually meet the needs of an insurance exchange at all.

From a pure software engineering perspective, what's happening right now isn't that bad. Version 1.0 launched, it had problems. Let's get working on Version 2.0 and maybe try out some new ideas. Then for Version 3.0 and 4.0, we can start thinking of a platform. The other important point here is that you have to plan for multiple versions and long term maintenance/evolution for software. The suggestion that healthcare.gov should have been run as a startup in the government rather than outsourced is probably the best idea for fixing the problem.

-Chris

open source is easier to fix (1)

rewindustry (3401253) | about 9 months ago | (#45183615)

the thing i like about open source is that, even when it is broken, i can "git it and fix it" all by myself, as can anyone else so inclined. at may seem magical, but somehow the best fixes do tend to swim upstream against the current. you lot have a broken system, and from what i am hearing, you are not expecting this to get sorted any time soon, if at all. had it been open source this discussion would now be irrelevant, as the problems would have been fixed by now. i believe this has been proven, over and over again, in the real world. open source for life. (speaking of fixing things, is anyone at slashdot interested in sorting out your apparent dependency on microsoft style cr/lf?)

Don't boil the ocean! (2)

sootman (158191) | about 9 months ago | (#45183201)

It's a ridiculously complicated system. [washingtonpost.com] (Scroll down to the graphic.) Figure out a way to release it in stages. Step 1, you can create an account and log in and read what the system will someday be. Step 2, make sure it's getting to all the right info from all the right places. Etc...

Don't go with the Normal Govt. Contractor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45183203)

is the better solution. In fact, the *tards that created this mess should be forced to fix it w/o any additional money being paid as it doesn't meet the specifications. That's right, simply enforce the effin contract that included the provision that it must meet the specs as written - which it doesn't before any money is to be paid. Maybe we'd not have companies feeding at the public expense. I'd love to have what they paid for the fucking website in my wallet and I'd at least have made something that looks reasonable and possibly worked instead of the crap they've got now.

Hell I'll fix the damn thing for Five Million and have it working in 2 months.

How about just turn it off (0)

Gothmolly (148874) | about 9 months ago | (#45183205)

Amazing how the public dialog is now "how to fix socialized medicine" when just a short time ago it was more like "should we have socialized medicine?" Well played, Mr Obama.

Re:How about just turn it off (4, Informative)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 9 months ago | (#45183423)

Amazing how the public dialog is now "how to fix socialized medicine" when just a short time ago it was more like "should we have socialized medicine?" Well played, Mr Obama.

Since most of the world has socialized medicine, and it works quite well, you probably will only find sympathy from US readers where it is fashionable to make a profit on other people being sick. Sounds like a great system. BTW, my aunt from the US was visiting here and fell and broke her hip. Our socialized medicine took very good care of her. Total bill to her, since she doesn't pay taxes here was $2,000, including ambulance, surgeons fees, etc.. She's resting comfortably back home in the States now.

It's funny, really, you have everybody pay a little, so your business people can fly for cheap, but ask them all to pay a little so sick people can be helped and you would think you asked them to cut off their arm or something.

Good grief (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45183209)

Not another article about open source curing cancer. Yes, open source will fix the health care website. Anyone that thinks this is either has limited professional IT experience or makes their living on open source. Whether it's open source or closed is almost entirely irrelevant.

It can't be fixed. (0)

erroneus (253617) | about 9 months ago | (#45183241)

There's more wrong with that site than the software. The problems are so many ranging from how it came to be, what its results are, who it most affects, who it doesn't affect [as in who it excludes], what parties wrote the legislation in its current form and how it coincidentally benefits primarily them, and lots more.

This is the worst government trainwreck of a law I have ever seen. Requiring auto insurance for drivers and (in some states) driver-license holders has demonstrably had the effect of raising auto insurance rates for all. How this lesson learned did not translate into higher healthcare insurance rates is proof that the people either have no good intentions or are simply unqualified to make such plans and decisions as they failed to consider something so simple and obvious. That there are so many exemptions sprinkled in and about proves they are aware of the problems it poses for people but they only wish to help or protect themselves or their friends.

We need the proposed 28th amendment ratified so that this sort of unfair and unbalanced legislative practice can never happen again.

Re:It can't be fixed. (1)

Microlith (54737) | about 9 months ago | (#45183397)

This is the worst government trainwreck of a law I have ever seen.

I've seen worse. The PATRIOT Act is one, for example.

Requiring auto insurance for drivers and (in some states) driver-license holders has demonstrably had the effect of raising auto insurance rates for all.

Oh, care to cite the data on this? Not that it's relevant to health insurance, because one can't simply opt to not get sick or hurt.

Re:It can't be fixed. (1)

erroneus (253617) | about 9 months ago | (#45183793)

No, people can't opt out of accidents and exposure to disease. But they should be able to make their own decision, right or wrong, to seek out health insurance or to handle their problems in their own way as they see fit. And this includes anything along the lines of religious and moral objections to current medical practices.

As for data? Gonna be hard to find now. For most people, the requirement is based on laws which are about 20 years old. (Meaning most people here don't have a full appreciation of the before-after effects of such law.) But as a person in his mid 40s, I can recall clearly how my rates changed after laws were passed and how much news there was discussing the problem in that day. I am unable to find news or other articles related to that. This is as close as I could find:

http://www.insurancejournal.com/magazines/partingshots/2000/06/26/22647.htm [insurancejournal.com]

The basic fact is that insurance companies have less incentive to lower rates once the requirement laws were put into place. It also shows their profitability went up following the passage of such law. Meanwhile, the amount of actual coverage went down for many people simply because they couldn't afford the newer, higher rates. And at the end of the day, it didn't curb the most frequent offenders of failure to be insured -- illegal immigrants.

Just as in the case of health insurance requirements, you only have to look at who benefits most and who is harmed the most to see what's wrong with such law and programs.

Re:It can't be fixed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45183785)

We need the proposed 28th amendment ratified so that this sort of unfair and unbalanced legislative practice can never happen again.

Yeah, it can say "It shall be the duty of the Federal government to ensure the health and safety of all citizens of the United States against enemies foreign and domestic." with a bit added on about funding.

Open source (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45183249)

That seems like the only way to return maximum value to the taxpayers, too.

Will that un-spend 600+ million dollars?

Win/Win Scenario (1)

dicobalt (1536225) | about 9 months ago | (#45183293)

Make it open source and easily customizable enough for other countries to use. Then put in bunch of hard to find security bugs and let the NSA exploit those bugs to spy on other countries. Two birds, one stone, everyone is happy. You're welcome.

Re:Win/Win Scenario (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45183347)

Merica.

No more Billion dollar systems (4, Informative)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | about 9 months ago | (#45183305)

It has become painfully obvious to me that government IT contracts exist solely to give well connected contracting companies billions of dollars of taxpayer's money since these same large creatively dead companies can't actually come up with products that real consumers would want. My guess is that if you contracted these companies to build an iPad that it would be 1 inch thick and have a 640 x 400 resolution and have an owner's manual that came in a set of binders.

So these companies are going to fight opensource as hard as they can seeing that it destroys all kinds of things they had going for them. Open source means that other companies can come in and scoop their contracts. Open source means that people like slashdoter and the DailyWTF will go through the code highlighting crap that came from 3rd rate 3rd world outsourced coders. Open source could even mean horror upon horrors that if good code is generated that other governments will copy it and simply modify it to their own needs.

But the worst horror is that if they charge 50 billion dollars for a few thousand lines of modifications to an existing system people like us will be willing to testify at the fraud trial.

Actually there is one worse horror: that people like us contribute free functionality, upgrades, and fixes.

Re:No more Billion dollar systems (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45183407)

It has become painfully obvious to me that government contracts exist solely to give well connected contracting companies billions of dollars of taxpayer's money

FTFY. HTH. HAND.

Don't let the peasants think they have any say (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about 9 months ago | (#45183319)

If you give the people any chance to participate in government, besides paying taxes and voting for the carefully-groomed, reliable idiots, then they are likely to develop some misplaced sense of ownership.
That is absolutely NOT how this plantation is run.

GO PUBLIC DOMAIN !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45183327)

It is TAX DOLLARS AT WORK !! Not some fucking commie GNU is not unix license that has nothing to do with anything that is not stupid as stupid does !!

Yes, of course this is a stupid suggestion !! But this is /. and that is what makes this place so fucking funny !!

But it is open source (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45183351)

from torrentfreak, about healthcare.gov

"As it turns out, the Government website uses the open source software DataTables, which is a plug-in for the jQuery Javascript library.

While using open-source software is fine, the makers of Healthcare.gov decided to blatantly remove all references to its owners or the original copyright license.

In other words, they simply took the open-source software and are passing it off as their own, a clear violation of the GPL v2 and BSD (3-point) licenses DataTables uses."

This is obviously an idea (1)

toph2223 (887611) | about 9 months ago | (#45183383)

Presented by someone with (among other things): A: not any real world experience in dealing with systems on a large scale, or, B: someone in their early twenties who thinks open source is the end all be all. Not to mention the time and cost healthcare.gov has already cost the US taxpayers, going open source at this point would be a disaster. But hey, healthcare.gov is already a joke and a disaster, so making it a disaster would be a step up, I guess...

How To Fix Healthcare.gov? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45183391)

The only fix for healthcare.gov is to drop the bomb on it. 3 years and $630 million dollars and in true government style, it is a complete and total disaster and this is just a small taste of how everything that was good about our healthcare system is going to be destroyed by a massive, blundering bureaucracy.

The only fix is to defund Obamacare, scrap it and start over.

Like the Steve Martin joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45183435)

"How to make a million dollars and not pay taxes"

Step one... make a million dollars
Step two... when the IRS calls, you tell them two simple words. "I forgot"

TFA: "How to create a great, highly available, high throughput, secure Obamacare web site using open source software"

Step one... make a great, highly available, high throughput, secure Obamacare web site
Step two... release the source code to the community under the best possible license

QA as an unnecessary cost. (1)

Ducho_CWB (900642) | about 9 months ago | (#45183485)

When I saw the news "Healthcare.gov sux" (or similar) my firsth thought was "QA really sux in this project".
You don't need to go open source, you need a good staff.

Re:QA as an unnecessary cost. (1)

Ducho_CWB (900642) | about 9 months ago | (#45183519)

Firsth = first.
I'm using a Surface RT. Can I use this as an excuse?

SubjectsInCommentsAreStupid (1)

lesincompetent (2836253) | about 9 months ago | (#45183545)

Oh my non-existing-god!
Open source? America is definitely committed to its descent into communism!

wont anyone think of the lobbyists (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45183547)

How will they make their money?

Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45183559)

Why fix it? Junk it.
BTW, why do you suppose the Federal Government gave this huge job to a Canadian software company.
You American software engineers not up to the task?

UK gov has already done this (1)

Chris Robson (3403541) | about 9 months ago | (#45183569)

Govt in the UK went open source with their national system. Perhaps they have some lessons to share.

How to FiX Slashdot HeAdlines (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 9 months ago | (#45183587)

That is all.

A Real Solution... (1)

guitardood (934630) | about 9 months ago | (#45183655)

C>

C>format /X .gov:

C>

While I don't necessarily disagree.... (1)

sgt_doom (655561) | about 9 months ago | (#45183683)

....perhaps Jessica Teal and Teal Media and a bunch of 20-somethings with limited experienced actually had something to do with the situation?

Government Works are Public Domain by Law (1)

wilby (141905) | about 9 months ago | (#45183727)

Someone should file a freedom of information act request for the code.
Several years ago when I worked at NASA our branch chief speculated that someone could request, and get, the our in house developed data acquisition system and have potentially sellable product.

Its not the platform ... (2)

PPH (736903) | about 9 months ago | (#45183795)

... its incredibly difficult to map rules described in English to software requirements. And in this case, it isn't English, its legalese.

I've done this for engineering applications. In fact I've worked with automated systems that do a pretty good job of automated code generation. But in either the manual or automated case, it takes numerous iterations through the requirements definition phase to capture the inputs (what the customer wants), map these to requirements, discover holes (where a specific case might not be addressed) or conflicts. The solution in these cases is to go back to the customer and get more information. Or in some cases, tell them that 'it just won't work like that'.

Writing legislation, passing a bill and then building a web site doesn't work this way. What do you expect the developers to do? Go back to Congress and ask them to re-write the law if a problem is discovered? I don't think so.

Compare this to tax law. That has had decades to evolve, as a manual system before TurboTax came on the scene. And many of the discrepancies were actually encountered and solved. Just not in software. So when it came time to write code, the regulations (requirements) were well understood and complete.

Why is there a website? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45183801)

What exactly is preventing these people from going to health insurance company websites and buying health insurance. Let them buy health insurance that way and then give them the subsidy through a tax credit. I guess it's an excuse to hire more government workers and contractors.

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