President Obama was hailed as a rock star on the campaign trail, using technology more effectively than any politician in history, with revered outlets like the New York Times declaring that Obama’s online efforts “changed politics” and the technology website Mashable professing that his campaign “won the Internet.”
But despite these two sweeping national elections, our Webmaster-in-Chief hasn’t come close to applying the technological aptitude of his campaign to the White House, and has missed a major opportunity to transform governing.
With the bungled launch of healthcare.gov, Obamacare has become one of the most spectacular failures in the history of technology–making the widely panned crash of the Romney campaign’s ORCA voter turnout application, look like a major success by comparison.
In this Friday, Oct. 11, 2013 computer frame grab, a HealthCare.gov website error message is displayed. (AP Photo/HealthCare.gov)
The Digital-Age President is watching his signature policy accomplishment go up in flames because the technology behind it was as flawed as the policy itself, and he can neither defend nor criticize it without further emboldening the bipartisan voices calling for the individual mandate and its glitch-addled exchanges to be delayed.
With each passing day, more information emerges as to the astonishing extent of healthcare.gov’s crippled rollout. Tests conducted in advance of the October 1st launch confirmed that a crash would result when a mere few hundred people logged on–which explains why there were only six successful enrollments on the first day, and 248 on the second day, despite more than 11 million visits in the first week.
An independent analysis of the site revealed that “hitting ‘apply’ on HealthCare.gov triggers 92 separate files, plug-ins and other mammoth swarms of data to stream between the user's computer and the servers powering the government website,” resulting in the site essentially launching a crippling attack on itself.
The small number of Americans who were actually able to successfully navigate the healthcare exchange sites have produced applications that are so riddled with errors that insurance companies have had to hire temporary workers to manually process applications and directly contact enrollees to verify personal information. In this light, perhaps it’s a good thing that only 1 in 40 visitors to healthcare.gov have been able to file an application for health insurance at all.
[sharequote align="center"]Obamacare has become one of the most spectacular failures in the history of technology[/sharequote]
Healthcare.gov’s launch has been such an unmitigated disaster that even administration allies like former Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has called for firings and progressive commentator Ezra Klein labeled the rollout a “management failure.”
Ironically, while Romney was never able to match Obama’s digital savvy in the campaign, Obama has failed to replicate Romney’s competence in implementing healthcare reform while governing. In the heat of the contentious 2012 campaign the White House claimed it used Romney’s 2006 Massachusetts program as a blueprint for Obama’s national plan – with Obama’s former campaign manager, David Plouffe, going so far as to declare Romney “the godfather” of Obamacare.
Despite Romneycare’s weakness as policy, the fact that Mitt Romney had it ready to go and functional on its launch date now makes Romney’s claim to be a better and more competent manager than Obama ring even truer. Hindsight is 20/20, but in light of the administration’s calamitous healthcare exchange rollout, they must find themselves regretting the backhanded praise they heaped on an opponent whose core campaign message centered on his managerial competence.
Although Obamacare didn’t cost the president a second term, it may be the concrete boots on the ankles of his presidential legacy. The Obama administration had over two and a half years from the passage of the Affordable Care Act to the opening of the government healthcare exchanges this month to build and design a functioning website – and failed spectacularly. Obama’s signature policy has, in fact, become the antithesis of his campaign – poorly designed, incompetently managed, and only confusing and harming the people it intends to help.
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