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News Questions Congress should ask Sibelius.

  1. Oct 22, 2013 #1
    A: How many days into the launch was it before he knew about the problems?

    B: How many days before the launch did the testers know about the problems?


    Did Obama ask Sibelius on a regular basis how things were going? If he did ask, how often did he ask? Was it more than A + B? When he did ask, what did she tell him? If he didn't ask, should we remind him that the ACA is called Obamacare in the press?

    There were other problems besides the crashes. I don't have citations, but I heard that the passwords of early users were lost, and that information gathered by the website was garbled or incomplete when it arrived at the insurance companies. Were those parts of the website tested? Earlier, I heard that it was impossible to know how many people had successfully applied using the website. Is that because there is no way to query the database? Later, I heard that a half million people did successfully apply. How do they know that?

    I can't think of any more right now. Are there any other questions you would like answered?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 23, 2013 #2
    Sorry we don't accept what you heard as being valid information.
  4. Oct 23, 2013 #3


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  5. Oct 23, 2013 #4
    My son was able to get far enough into the web site to find plans available in Arizona. He has had a pre existing condition albatross around his neck for the last three years.

    His new platinum policy will save him over $100 per month.

    It is unfortunate that the web site failed the first day. On the other hand open enrollment doesn't end until March 31 2014.


    Actually I doubt Sibelius knows much about the computer code and the inner workings of the web site. It looks more like another political witch hunt.
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2013
  6. Oct 24, 2013 #5
    This issue has nothing to do with knowing computer code or the inner workings of the web site. And it's not a witch hunt. Its about Sibelius and Obama not having a timely conversation about how things were going. Or having a conversation that failed to mention the elephant in the room.
  7. Oct 24, 2013 #6


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    How many people here have no idea that Kathleen Sibelius is a woman? I keep seeing "he" over and over and frankly have to discount the opinions in those posts. A little due diligence, please.
  8. Oct 24, 2013 #7


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    BTW, the Libyans swarmed that consulate with overwhelming force against unarmed Libyan guards. Right after the attack there were Monday-morning quarterbacks asking why the President didn't order air strikes. The nearest US fighter base was 2000 miles away. Fighter jets are fast, but not that fast. Even if the jets were "hot", fueled, armed, and ready to roll, it would have taken them hours to get to Benghazi, with no effect on the outcome.

    Practical issues have little effect on the beliefs of ideologues, but those "beliefs" are like believing in fairies. It is impossible for a reasonable person to "disprove" them.
  9. Oct 24, 2013 #8
    Today is the 24th day and the first time that I tried out the site. I tried twice, once at 1:30 pm, and once at 8:00 pm EST. In both cases, I was unable to create a login user name and password. This too is unfortunate.

    I have two criticisms of the site.

    First, the second page asks you which state you live in. The question is so low on the page that you can't see it unless you scroll down. But higher up on the same page it asks you whether you are an individual, or a business. I clicked on individual and it reloaded the page, but nothing changed. It took a while for me to realize that I needed to scroll down.

    Second, it asks a lot of questions before you can submit your request for a user name and password. Only after you have answered them all does it tell you that it's not up and running. Why not say that up front and spare me the effort?

    Here's another question for Sibelius. How would she rate the level of security of the website? Should I practice, more, the same, or less internet hygiene than I would with other sites?

    And here's a question for edward. Has your son contacted the insurance company to verify that they received correct information from the website? Here is a citation that indicates that he probably should.


  10. Oct 24, 2013 #9


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    Most upper management have no clue how IT happens. They hire some IT manager who hires the staff and/or contractors to make it happen. Sometimes it does, sometimes is doesn't.

    Nevertheless, someone will have to look at how CMS was involved in directing the work/project.
  11. Oct 25, 2013 #10

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    Questions Congress should ask Sibelius.
    When did you stop beating your kids?
    Are you going to wear a witch costume on Halloween, or something different because that is what you wear every day?

    This is a witch hunt, so the Republicans might was well drop appearances that it isn't a witch hunt.

    Questions Congress should ask itself.
    What lessons can be learned from the problems with the healthcare.gov rollout?
    Why do so many government-led software projects fail?
    Are there systemic problems with the ways in which the government builds software?
    Are there systemic problems in the government's contracting mechanisms?
  12. Oct 25, 2013 #11


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    It is quite interesting that some elements of Congress are demanding information on the roll-out of a program that they are trying desperately to kill. Sebelius will be as open as possible IMO, because any failure in this regard would unleash the hounds.

    Good luck to her, because this manufactured "scandal" will probably go on for months if nothing juicier comes up. I hope she's tough. :mad:
  13. Oct 25, 2013 #12
    Today at 10:30 am was my third attempt to create a user name and password and my third failure. 11:15 am was the fourth attempt and failure. This is the 25th unfortunate day for the website.
  14. Oct 25, 2013 #13
    Hmm, manufactured.

    Well, it certainly is a scandal. The federal exchanges will likely cost ten times (they’re already at 7 now, if memory serves) as much as estimated and the exchange performance has been, to date, a spectacular failure.

    Anyone who actually followed the construction of the federal exchanges knew they were being terribly mismanaged, and the media was catching on even before Oct 1. Contrary to popular belief, most exchange functions are pretty simple; the most difficult thing it has to do is communicate with other government entities, and they knew about that three years ago. The only way that someone could not know that the exchanges had serious problems is that they didn't try to find out.

    On the other hand I would agree the size of the scandal is overblown. The federal government may be really bad at this kind of project, but it only has to build the website once. . . or twice. Hopefully just twice. Then I hope it should be able to maintain it.

    If the gov't can maintain the site once it’s working, then the website problems will be lost to history as other and successes and failures come to light. Sebelius will get to claim both of those as well.
  15. Oct 25, 2013 #14
    A bit off topic but just how would they have test run a web site this large? According to the testimony by several of the contractors I watched on C span much of the information flows through their servers.

    Different contractors had different pieces of the web site to develop. Did they ever speak to each other? That question was never asked.

    Contractor A can say: "my portion works perfectly" but can they say: "my portion will communicate with contractor B's portion"?

    It is not like this is the first government system put together by private contractors has failed at first try, and that includes a lot of military equipment, hardware, and software.

    The website for me to access the local VA pharmacy and other services failed the first week it was online.
  16. Oct 25, 2013 #15

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    That's not off-topic at all. HealthCare.gov is a poster child for how *not* to create a complex software system. The testing was abysmal. Start integrated testing one week prior to launch? That's close to a 100% guarantee for failure. Add in the facts that
    • Apparently nobody with technical skills was in charge of end-to-end integration and testing,
    • Work was split amongst 55 different contractors, many of whom apparently were forbidden from working together,
    • Interfaces apparently were ill-designed (if at all),
    • Apparently this system was built as if the waterfall model works,
    • Apparently the high-level people who saw the Potemkin demos of the system didn't see through the smoke and mirrors,
    • Apparently nobody on the government side listened to the insurance companies or their contractors who said that the system was not ready, and
    • Apparently there were significant political pressures to launch on October 1 no matter what.
    This system was designed to fail. Not intentionally, but it was nonetheless designed to fail.

    The waterfall model (wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waterfall_model) never worked. It was known not to work in the 1960s. That did not stop the military from embodying the waterfall model in the sequence of standards DOD-STD-2167, DOD-STD-2167A, and MIL-STD-498, nor did it stop the government by strongly influencing IEEE 12207. That the waterfall model *never* worked is irrelevant. What's relevant is that it fits so nicely with how government works. (Or doesn't work, depending on your point of view.)

    To me, the failure of HealthCare.gov isn't so much about ObamaCare as it is about how uniformly badly governments do when they develop complex software systems. Modern software development should pay a lot of attention to quality, to cost estimation and cost control, to interfaces, and to a concept of testing always preceding development. Testing of all sorts (unit tests, integrated tests, end-to-end tests) should start from day one. On day one, the non-existent software of course fails all tests. That's not a problem on day one; it is in fact a good thing. On the other hand, it is a very big problem on launch day - 5.
  17. Oct 25, 2013 #16
    Great wiki link DH. Thanks
  18. Oct 25, 2013 #17


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    Thanks for the great technical explanation, DH. I have two basic problems with government run healthcare systems; the philosophical and the practical. The practical being that I just don't think it is possible for a government to run a complicated program effectively. And as complicated as ObamaCare is (er: it doesn't look to me like it should be that complicated, but ok), it isn't even close to a full-fledged government health insurance program.
  19. Oct 25, 2013 #18

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    Sure they can. It just takes a while. It's just as much a mistake to think the government cannot run a complicated program effectively as it is to expect them to run it effectively from day one.

    What Congress should do is to use this debacle as a wedge into investigating why the federal government is so particularly effective at getting software wrong at first, and at high cost, before they eventually do get it right. But they won't. They will instead cover their faces with egg yet again, which is something that Congress is particularly effective at doing, with the Republican-led House leading the charge -- this time around. Democrats have been good at this too in the past, but not this time around.
  20. Oct 25, 2013 #19


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    That's what I heard today. Apparently the administration decided that HealthCare.gov had to go live on October 1, the first day of the current fiscal, because of the pressure to show that ACA/Obamacare would work. It seems that the political descision/judgement overrode the technical judgement.

    It should have been delayed until appropriate testing was completed, AND the bugs worked out.
  21. Oct 25, 2013 #20

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    That happens again and again. It's SOP with regard to government and technology.

    Testing should have started much, much earlier so the key bugs could have been fixed. All the bugs? That's pretty much impossible given a code base of 500 million lines of code. Given what I've read, they didn't have a clue regarding how many bugs they had.
  22. Oct 25, 2013 #21


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    Well, the ACA is quite clear that penalties (read taxes) are to be assessed for individuals who don't have coverage in calendar year 2014. Because of the dates on which coverage becomes effective after enrollment, in order to have effective coverage starting Jan. 1, 2014, one must have enrolled by Dec. 15, 2013. Now enrolling an entire country of 300 million plus citizens (less those whose health plans haven't been torpedoed by the ACA and those favored with exemptions from coverage by the administration, etc.) between Oct. 1 and Dec. 15 is pretty ambitious, even if the software worked perfectly as intended.

    You can imagine the chaos that would ensue if, for example, everyone had to renew their automobile tags in the same period. The various state DMVs would be swamped.

    The blame for this stinker (the ACA) needs to be laid where it belongs: at the feet of its creators. They manufactured 3000 pages of BUMF in the original legislation that nobody read before it was passed, and consequently, when all of the inconvenient deadlines started to loom out of the mists of the distant future into the present, they doubled-downed on stupid and refused to compromise on implementation.

    The latest shut-down occurred, in part, because the administration and the majority leader in the Senate were too proud to admit that this legislation, their signature achievement, was poorly conceived from the start and that it needed more time to be implemented properly.
  23. Oct 25, 2013 #22


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    Actually, you have until March 31st to sign up without penalties, and don't you think saying 300 million people, less some details that you stick into a parenthesis, is a bit over exaggerating the number of people that have to sign up?
  24. Oct 25, 2013 #23
    Agreed. Although we should all note that it was just October 23rd that this became true. Prior to that one needed to sign up in February not to get hit with the tax.

    Agreed. Nowhere near 300 million people need to sign up through the website. 5% of that, max, and more likely 7 - 9 million.
  25. Oct 25, 2013 #24
    According to the Henry J Kaiser Foundation, and I don't know if they are left right or in between, there were over 47 million uninsured Americans in 2012.

    Was that 300 million number you mentioned just for shock effect?


    People who have existing insurance don't have to do anything. People who are uninsured because they can't afford it can get a tax credit. The available tax credit can be given in advance and go directly to the health insurance company that the person has selected.


    The more I read about the ACA the better it sounds. The countries we must compete with in the global market all have some form of government provided health care. At least the ACA still uses private companies. How about the old competition in the market place is good for us mantra the right is always spouting? Is that not valid now?

    Don't try to fool anyone by saying the reason for the last shut down was the Senate. It was about the Tea party trying to defund Obama Care. That is no way to legislate and the American people quite clearly blamed the Republican party.

  26. Oct 25, 2013 #25
    Now I know why I haven't been able to get a user name and password. The first time I tried, the website spun its wheels for about two minutes and then told me that it failed. When I tried the second time, it failed right away and with a different error message. In each of the subsequent attempts, I got the same behavior as in the second attempt. It struck me that the error message gave no clue as to what had failed. Normally, an error message would have a code number or some other way of identifying the part of the program that failed. That way you don't just call in to say "It failed", you can actually tell them what went wrong. That started a train of thought that led me to ask myself, what if I had actually succeeded the first time and the error was a timeout. I tried to log in with my original password and failed again. Then I clicked on 'Forgot your password?' to see what would happen. Bingo. I got an e-mail with a link to where I could reset my password. Since I didn't supply the e-mail address, it means that the website has my original login information. That's why I can't create a user name and password. I already have one. The link they sent me did not work. I got the following error message:
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