Google, Oracle, and Red Hat have sent engineers and developers to help the federal government repair the error-riddled Healthcare.gov Website, the online hub for signing up for soon-to-be-mandatory healthcare.
“They are working through the analytics of what happens on the site to prioritize what needs to be fixed,” federal spokesperson Julie Bataille told reporters on a conference call, according to Bloomberg.
Those Silicon Valley workers are part of a “tech surge” that’s supposed to fix the Website after its troubled launch and continuing issues. “As an information technology company we are doing everything we can to help,” Oracle CEO Larry Ellison said at his company’s annual meeting. Oracle, along with Google and other Silicon Valley giants, derives a significant chunk of revenue from federal computing projects, something that’s surely a factor in these companies deciding to help out.
But those engineers will face a Herculean task made that much more difficult by the Website’s complex requirements and apparent inability to handle massive amounts of traffic without crashing. In October, a critical datacenter failure hindered the platform’s ability to verify identity and citizenship, affecting not only the Healthcare.gov Website but also the online health exchanges run by individual states—the latest in a long string of problems that have included thousands of people being unable to create or log into an account.
“We have updated the site several times with new code that includes bug fixes that have greatly improved the HealthCare.gov experience,” The White House wrote in an Oct. 21 blog posting. “The initial wave of interest stressed the account service, resulting in many consumers experiencing trouble signing up, while those that were able to sign up sometimes had problems logging in.” But during subsequent Congressional hearings, contractors said the warned the government about multiple glitches heading into the launch, which a tight schedule gave them precious little time to fix.
But are those Website issues affecting signup rates? Millions have visited Healthcare.gov, according to the Obama administration, but documents obtained by CBS News suggest that only a few hundred people signed up for an actual healthcare plan during the Website’s first few days online. If that number’s accurate, it’s a huge problem, as the healthcare exchanges serviced by the Website reportedly need around 39,000 enrollees per day if the federal government wants to reach a goal of seven million enrolled by March 1.
Enrollment numbers won’t be truly clear until the government releases official figures at the end of November, but the issues with the Website aren’t helping alleviate the perceptions of the program as a flawed one. And it remains to be seen whether those engineers from Google, Oracle, and other tech companies will actually accelerate the fixes; as any IT manager knows, throwing tons of workers at a problem is often a recipe for complications and slowdowns rather than fixes.