Oct 25 2013
The Congressional hearings yesterday went as usual – lot of hot air, lot of politicians posturing and nothing new.
Truth be told, the industry leaders who worked pieces of ObamaCare were 100% right and forthcoming when they testified. They do NOT deserve blame for this fiasco. This mess is ALL on the government organization responsible for developing and launching Healthcare.gov.
A technology effort that pales next to developing and launching a satellite within 3 years to explore the mysteries of our universe:
Discovery seeks to keep performance high and expenses low by using new technologies and cost caps. The cost for the entire mission (design, development, launch vehicle, instruments, spacecraft, launch, mission operations, data analysis, education and public outreach) must be less than $425 million. The development time from mission start to launch can be no more than 36 months. The intent is to have a mission launch every 12 to 24 months.
NASA has the technical resources to perform these kinds of missions on a 3 year development cadence for the same amount of money HHS had to spend on ObamaCare. And NASA does this on many fronts (see here for the Small Explorer Program Missions). So how is it we in the NASA world can build a satellite, its control center and its science data processing systems in three years (plus the website for the public to visit and see all the cool results) and HHS couldn’t launch a little website in the same time with the same money?
Obamacare has survived years of political attacks. Most recently, Republicans shut down the federal government in an attempt to repeal it. Yet it turns out that the biggest threat to health reform is the administration’s own incompetence.
There are lots of naive people pointing fingers at the companies, but this mess is the result of government arrogance and ignorance. It is the result of people who feel because they are empowered to monitor an industry (like health care) they are somehow superior in knowledge, morality and overall skill.
It is the arrogance of government bureaucracy not understanding the complexities of large endeavors, and respecting the abilities of the private sector and those on Main Street who work there. Of course HHS could do this – they are the federal government – right? (And they can get you better healthcare for less, without impacting your current insurance and without any death panels).
Even NASA, which has an army of smart, experienced engineers and scientists to scope, monitor and direct its programs, relies heavily on an even larger army of private sector engineers and scientists to support them. Many of us ‘beltway bandits’ work FOR the tax payer, making sure those other, large private sector companies build what is needed on time and on schedule. It is a pool of expertise built up over 5 decades of space exploration.
This is not something you read in a book and then do.
HHS (and CMS specifically) failed because they tried to be something they were not.
They pretended to be a technology program Systems Engineer, Systems Integrator, Systems Test and Systems Operator. Where CMS got the idea they could do all this is beyond me.
And let’s be clear here – ObamaCare is NOT a large complex problem. It is not as complex as a dam, or a nuclear sub, or a fighter jet, or a suspension bridge, or a nuclear power plant, or a chemical processing plant, or a hospital, or an airport, or the power grid or…
You get the point. It was a simple SW system with a web front end.
Yes, you had to integrate information from databases across the federal government. But then you scope your efforts to do what you can and not try to do it all at once and throw it together in the last two weeks. Systems Engineering 101 – scope your work to your budget and schedule, not some pie-in-the-sky fantasy. Or worse, vague political hype.
Also, freeze your plan after detailed design and don’t let anyone make major changes without requiring the requisite schedule slip. Even a Petulant President stomping his foot at the last minute should be put back in his place. Program Management 101. Control the project, deflect outside forces.
I read somewhere the orders to change direction in the last month regarding when applicants had to fill in their information and sign up was supposedly sent to a tester in one of the companies via some word of mouth.
Technically, this is ILLEGAL. The only change to federal development contracts must be through the contracting change process. The government has to issue a Change Request, the company has to bid the impact, the government has to authorize the change through a contract action. No industry engineer can take direction from ANYONE in the government of this magnitude without due process.
I guess CMS just gave the nation a glaring example of why this is the law of federal contracting. So dip-stick decisions like we saw here don’t blow 100′s of millions of taxpayer money because someone panics.
Apparently when CMS testifies next week, someone is going find themselves in deep trouble. Because whoever directed this is in trouble. And if there is no paper trail for the change, a company is going to get a black eye. I am betting there is a paper trail.
Another troubling confirmation in the hearings is how CMS is still, just now, putting in a testing capability. No wonder the progress has been so slow. They have no way to check fixes before going live. Until then, Americans in need of health insurance are the guinea pigs.
Anyway, you can be assured the heart of this fiasco is inside CMS. When I heard each of the larger contractors had tested their code and it worked (and I betcha they have the documents to back it up) we can safely rule them out. The fact the Exchanges fell apart when CMS tried to test a couple hundred applicants is the final weeks is the last bit of evidence we need to unravel the mystery being covered up at HHS.
The Systems Engineering by CMS had to be abysmal to fail so brilliantly. There are always tuning issues when you first integrate. But we are not seeing tuning issues here. Not in this case. We are seeing deep and wide design mistakes.
What we are seeing, in the wise words of Ed Morrissey, is the best big government has to offer when it goes beyond its normal, limited reach:
In short, the ACA was the Obama administration’s own bid to prove that activist, large-scale government was superior in innovation and competency. Instead, it has become a signature example of the lack of accountability, incompetence, and rank dishonesty that activist, large-scale government creates and protects. And that was just on performance. Despite the 42 months lead time and the outlay of $400 million, the web portal failed immediately, and two successive weekends of repair couldn’t make it work.
The administration lied to us (and itself) when it claimed it could make-over the health care system in America. It lied to us (and itself) when it claimed over and over again everything was on track. It lied to us when it claimed the issues discovered when ObamaCare went live were small and would be fixed.
It lied because it cannot admit government is in over its head and probably has screwed up this nation’s health care for years to come.
Most of those enrollments aren’t in private insurance, CBS’ Jan Crawford reports, but in Medicaid. The lack of sales in private insurance may mean a collapse of the entire reform program:
On Nov. 1, the health law’s malfunctioning enrollment system is supposed to send reams of data to states so they can begin placing thousands of people into Medicaid. But state officials say that transfer system has barely been tested and could be vulnerable to technical failures like those that have crippled the broader Obamacare sign-up process.
The people fighting their way through the mess that is Healthcare.gov are the very people who will crush the system financially. The poor, the sick and the elderly. All the high cost individuals whose needs must be offset with premiums from those who are healthy and young.
Those same healthy young people who are unable to find full time, career oriented jobs after 6 years of liberal wasteful spending and economically destructive policies.
If it was not so horribly sad you would want to laugh at the geniuses who bankrupted the very demographics needed to pay for their signature, liberal debacle!