It’s a classic case of racing to market without sufficient software testing. That’s the real conundrum that escalated the HealthCare.gov rollout on a tumultuous downward spiral. A flawed procurement process resulted in a feeble start of what should have been a seamless deliverable for millions of Americans.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) spent months investigating and found the crux of the problem was “lack of effective planning or oversight practices” for the development of HealthCare.gov, the online portal to coverage for millions of America’s uninsured. GAO concluded that:
- Contractors were not given a coherent plan and were kept jumping around from issue to issue.
- The cost of the sign-up system ballooned from $56 million to more than $209 million from Sept. 2011 to Feb. 2014. The cost of the electronic backroom jumped from $30 million to almost $85 million.
- CMS, representing the administration, failed to follow up on how well the contractors performed. At one point the agency notified one contractor it was so dissatisfied it would start withholding payments. Then it quickly rescinded that decision.
- The type of federal contract selected for HealthCare.gov was open-ended, which may have encouraged costly changes.
The original contractors testified to Congress that they did not have nearly enough time to test the system before it went live.
Management consultant Jeff Zients was called in as a troubleshooter and made headway in getting things sorted by December. The GAO’s findings supported earlier conclusions in a report by Zients after his team got the website to work.
Zients’ report cited, “In addition to hundreds of software bugs, insufficient infrastructure and subpar monitoring of problems resulted in ‘inadequate management oversight and coordination’ that prevented real-time decision-making and efficient responses to address the issues.”
If this national-scaled scenario does little else, it screams the critical importance of allotting necessary time for software testing before going public. Building a quality software testing framework is essential to the success of any product or service and simply put, that takes time.
Eventually, some 8 million people managed to sign up for healthcare insurance, by far exceeding expectations. However, the political repercussions will likely be felt long-term for the White House and in particular, Democrats.