I Could Build One Hell of a Website for $350 Million in 9 Months

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I Could Build One Hell of a Website for $350 Million in 9 Months

First off, let me tell you that my company, Advice Interactive Group, builds websites. So, when I see a site like the technology portion of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) – the government’s very own healthcare.gov – fail after spending $300 million plus of taxpayers’ dollars, I have to question why.

I Am Frustrated

I tried to set up a small business account the other day just to see what all the banter is about and was immediately frustrated. Although the site has been over-hauled and coded by the “brightest” minds in the industry, it still outright rejects user logins, and refuses to display menu and other options for those who do manage to get inside. So, as far as I am concerned, the promise of cheap and competitive health insurance still remains out of reach for the average tax-paying American like me. According to a report from The Washington Post, the site has been able to fulfill its function for only a mere fraction of the population. I am guessing that there are many other frustrated uninsured Americans out there like me.

I’m Not Happy

This is absolutely infuriating, particularly considering that taxpayers have spent so much money for this technological fiasco. So what is wrong with it you ask? Well, the excuse provided by the administration is that there are inadequacies in the code. As an internet marketing company I can tell you that a client would not be very happy with me if shortly after I delivered his site I told him, “Hey Mr. Client, your site is done, but we are not sure the code behind the site will work. People may not be able to sign up, but don’t worry we can call them and fill out paper applications. No big deal!” WHAT? Are you kidding me?

Maybe I am Not Charging Enough

As with most government spending and budget allocations, the exact figures are difficult to calculate. But based on research with the figures that are released, the best estimates can be derived from the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) report in June. The figures shown indicate that U.S. Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have spent “almost $394 million from fiscal year 2010 through March 2013 through contracts” to build the “federally facilitated exchanges” (FFEs).

Please note that those figures do not include other administrative expenses like CMS salaries, which means the actual cost is much higher. According to the 2012 CMS budget, the agency spent $150 million last year for the Affordable Care Act. Hence, we can safely come to a calculated cost of around $500 million. For a website that does not work. As a business owner, this just makes me think. Maybe I am not charging enough for web design and development…

Let’s Take a Look…

Although it seems unfair to compare this Government project with privately owned online businesses, let’s do it anyway for the sake of perspective. Facebook ran for six years before its funding crossed the $500 million mark. Twitter, started in 2006, ran quite splendidly until 2011 for just $360 million while LinkedIn and Spotify have never crossed $300 million. Since its inception, healthcare.gov has been spending taxpayers’ money without offering any such benefits. How is this possible?

In an age when online businesses have conquered the international marketplace it’s almost impossible to believe we can’t get a simple website up and running that only serves our country. So, who do we blame? The breakdown of healthcare.org lies in the hands of administration appointees who award these contracts to companies.

The more experienced the companies, the less the appointee’s liability. It seems logical. However, now the government is willing to pay the same companies even more money to fix problems that they created in the first place! 

Crowdsourcing May Not Be the Answer

There are at least 55 major contractors involved in the healthcare.gov project. They run the whole gamut of online aspects from design, creation, to administration. Regarding the recent disaster, all they had to say was, “Not our fault,” or “No comment.” This is one of the major drawbacks of crowd sourcing – there is no single entity to take the blame. Where the heck is their project manager? Who the heck did the testing before the site went live? Fire them!

Hey Obamacare, Time to Give Me a Call

An estimated 14.6 million people have visited healthcare.gov, which indicates there is high interest for the program. We know that the government is not particularly competitive. But after spending $500 million, all we are asking for is a working website. Maybe they should call us at Advice Interactive Group?

Bernadette Coleman
Bernadette Coleman is the CEO of Advice Local, an award winning technology and Inc 500 digital agency. Bernadette is passionate about all things digital including... Read Full Bio
Bernadette Coleman
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