Oracle, Google, Red Hat Engineers Help Fix Crashing Obamacare Site

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Government and private sector personnel have been called in to help fix Healthcare.gov, the crash-prone web portal created under the US’ affordable heath-care act

Google, Oracle and Red Hat are coming to the rescue of Healthcare.gov, the ailing US government-hosted website where Americans can sign up for the health care options created by the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, as it has become known.

The site has been plagued by lags and other issues since its launch on 1 October. While 8.6 million people visited the site during its first week, only six enrollments occurred the first day, Reuters reported, citing government documents. Notes from the morning of 3 October read, “As of yesterday, there were 248 enrollments.”

‘Tech surge’

“As part of the ‘tech surge,’ we’ve added key personnel from the government and private sector, including expert engineers and technology members,” Julie Bataille, director communications at CMS, said in a 31 October blog post. “These dozens of people are strengthening and reinforcing the team we have working 24/7 to address the problems around Healthcare.gov.”

obamainternetKey among the “dozens” of engineers, developers, designers and analysts who are helping out, Bataille added, are Michael Dickerrson, a site reliability engineer on leave from Google, and Greg Gershman, a developer and entrepreneur “with experience running agile development teams and creating better user experiences while interacting with government”.

At Oracle’s annual shareholders meeting on 31 October, chief executive Larry Ellison called the issue a “very political topic”.

“Most of us want to see our government operating efficiently and effectively, and it is incumbent upon us to help them do that,” Ellison said, according to AP.

He added, “We are doing everything we can to assist those contractors to make HealthCare.gov a highly performant, highly reliable, highly secure system.”

The US Centres for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) were tasked with creating the site.

Bottleneck

“CMS has a track record of successfully overseeing the many contractors our programmes depend on to function,” Marilyn Tavenner, administrator for CMS, told the House Energy & Commerce Committee during sworn testimony into an investigation of the issue.

“Executives from the main Obamacare contractor CGI Federal and Quality Software Services Inc. (QSSI), a unit of health insurer UnitedHealth Group, blamed CMS for a lack of testing and a decision to prevent online visitors from shopping for insurance without first creating an account on the site,” Reuters reported. “The last-minute change may have contributed to huge bottlenecks as millions of visitors swamped the site.”

Tavenner apologised to the public during her testimony, saying, “To the millions of Americans who have attempted to use Healthcare.gov to shop and enroll in health care coverage, I want to apologise to you that the website has not worked as well as it should.”

Kathleen Sebelius, the US Health and Human Services secretary, apologised to Congress on 30 October, saying her agency has turned to outside help and plans to have the site “optimally functioning” by the end of November.

President Obama touted the benefits of the Affordable Care Act during a 26 September speech at Prince George’s Community College in Maryland.

“For a long time, America was the only advanced economy in the world where health care was not a right, but a privilege. We spent more, we got less. We left tens of millions of Americans without the security of health insurance,” he said. “… Now, five days from now … millions of Americans who don’t have health insurance because they’ve been priced out of the market or because they’ve been denied access because of a preexisting condition, they will finally be able to buy quality, affordable health insurance.”

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Originally published on eWeek.

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