The glitches and failures of HealthCare.gov have provided GOP congressmen with much needed ammo to attack “Obamacare.” They have held numerous congressional hearings that have allowed them to grandstand to their heart’s content. They have elicited an apology from the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius. The glitches have even forced President Obama to address them during press conferences.
But instead of looking for publicity and cheap political gains, perhaps Congress should be looking at the real problem – the federal procurement process.
A study of the federal procurement process by the Standish Group found that 94 percent of all federal IT projects costing $10 million or more fail! According to an article in Computerworld by Patrick Thibodeau, the Standish Group reviewed 3,555 projects from 2003 to 2012 costing at least $10 million. 52 percent were over budget, behind schedule or didn’t meet expectations. 41.4 percent were outright failures.
Likely, that’s because the procurement system is designed to select the cheapest bidder; not necessarily the best bidder for the project. And, if procurement for IT projects is handled like the procurement of defense weaponry, there are likely conditions written into the process designed to favor certain contractors…contractors located in a certain congressmen’s district or contractors that have “earned” certain favors through gifts and junkets to exotic places.
As evidence that HealthCare.gov is no exception, the Computerworld article cited other government projects that have experienced problems, stating “Large state and federal government IT projects are notorious for blowing up.” The article cited a US Air Force project costing $1 billion before it was scrapped and a $170 million FBI project. Of course, there have also been notable failures in the private sector, including Microsoft’s release of Windows 8.1. And there was the very public crash of Windows 98 during Bill Gates’ introductory presentation on live TV.
Despite all of this, HealthCare.gov can and will be fixed. It just needs time, money and talent. Indeed, those are the variables for any large project, and, unfortunately, the government procurement process tends to ignore two of them.
Moreover, the Affordable Care Act should not be judged by its website problems. The ACA has already accomplished much. It has ended the insurance industry practice of denying coverage for pre-existing conditions. It has eliminated lifetime caps on coverage. It has made it possible for parents to maintain coverage for their children up to age 26. It has already made it possible for tens of thousands to purchase insurance plans they previously couldn’t afford.
And it has done all of this despite more than 40 attempts to repeal or defund the law and a heavily-financed and highly-orchestrated GOP campaign of obstruction.