As the Obamacare website continues to confound both users and government officials, three 20-something San Francisco-area programmers say they’ve created a much simpler and cost-effective version of the site.
Ning Liang, George Kalogeropoulos and Michael Wasser put their heads together and created thehealthsherpa.com, a website that addresses the biggest problems with the glitch-ridden healthcare.gov.
"They got it completely backwards in terms of what people want up front," Liang told CBS News. "They want prices and benefits, so that they could make the decision."
Indeed, whereas healthcare.gov requires users to enter a plethora of sensitive personal information before offering information on health insurance plans, thehealthsherpa.com offers area plan information almost immediately.
"You come to our website and you put in your zip code -- in this case, a California zip code. You hit 'find plans,' and you immediately see the exchange plans that are available for that zip code,” Liang said.
Liang, Kalogeropoulos and Wasser have experience working at tech-savvy companies, including Microsoft and Twitter, and currently oversee their own Internet start-ups. But they say thehealthsherpa.com, which is only two weeks old, isn’t about money – it’s a public service.
"There was no thought of, 'How do we make money this time?'" Wasser told CBS. "It was like, 'This is a problem that we know we can solve in a really short period of time. So let's just do it.'"
The three programmers based their site, which took them a couple of nights to create, off code buried by high-priced contractors on the original Obamacare website. They simply found an easier and cheaper way to make the experience doable for the average consumer.
"That's the great thing about having such a small team," Kalogeropoulos said. "You sit around a table and say, 'OK, how does this work?' There's no coordination meetings, there's no planning sessions. It's like, 'Well, let's read the document and let's implement this.'"
The programmers even added a feature to help users calculate whether they're eligible for tax subsidies under the new health care law.
“(T)he subsidy calculation is fairly complicated, but it wasn't too bad,” said Liang.
It’s important to note that you can’t actually enroll in Obamacare through thehealthsherpa.com, and it doesn't perform every function healthcare.gov was designed to perform.
Still, the site does offer contact information for health insurance providers, which means someone could sign up without ever having to use healthcare.gov.
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Featured image via thehealthsherpa.com.