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Obamacare and Middle-Wheel-Wheelbarrows 199

Posted by timothy
from the well-here's-where-your-problem-is dept.
davecb writes "The Obamacare sign-up site was a classic example of managers saying 'not invented here' and doing everything wrong, as described in Poul-Henning Kamp's Center Wheel for Success, at ACM Queue." It's not just a knock on the health-care finance site, though: "We are quick to dismiss these types of failures as politicians asking for the wrong systems and incompetent and/or greedy companies being happy to oblige. While that may be part of the explanation, it is hardly sufficient. ... [New technologies] allow us to make much bigger projects, but the actual success/failure rate seems to be pretty much the same."
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Obamacare and Middle-Wheel-Wheelbarrows

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  • Shock! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Saturday December 21, 2013 @11:56PM (#45757877)

    Actual rational commentary unencumbered by raving political partisanship.

    How is this legal?

  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Saturday December 21, 2013 @11:57PM (#45757883)

    To many middle man get in the way of the people doing doing the tech work and it's like that part is being worked on by team X and you need to wait for them to do there part and no you can't talk directly to them.

  • by bogaboga (793279) on Sunday December 22, 2013 @12:04AM (#45757905)

    "The Obamacare sign-up site was a classic example of managers saying 'not invented here' and doing everything wrong, as described in Poul-Henning Kamp's Center Wheel for Success, at ACM Queue."

    I mean, you folks at Slashdot should have called it the Affordable Care Act website then reminded us that it's also known as Obamacare. But to call it what it isn't in the first sentence of introduction is [very] unfortunate!

    Disclaimer: I am neiter Democrat nor Republican.

  • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Sunday December 22, 2013 @12:17AM (#45757979) Homepage

    A problem with business, that is, not a problem of business. All too often I see business requirements for software that specify how things must be done, rather than specifying what is to be done. The problem is that the business requirements are being written by businessmen who have no training or experience in writing software, so they no more know how things should be done when writing software than (according to those self-same businessmen) the software developers know how things should be done when running a business. The solution is always the same: let the business people lay out what they want done, and let the software developers figure out how to do it.

  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Sunday December 22, 2013 @12:18AM (#45757987)

    Obamacare was originally the government heathcare plan designed to be an alternative to the public offerings in the PPACA. This was so broadly perceived as government interference in the private sector that enough Democrats declined to support it to make passing the bill impossible.

    Later the PPACA was called Obamacare as a way to disparage it and to try to attach blame for the unpopular aspects of it to the President as a political ploy.

    However even Mr. Obama now calls it Obamacare, so I guess if you call it by its official name you will are likely to just confuse people.

  • Re:No dude... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 22, 2013 @12:36AM (#45758051)
    No, your metric of success is just different from theirs. Government bureaucracy exists to obfuscate where your money goes and to provide channels for wealth to transfer. To control these channels, you hire people with specialized knowledge of the inner workings of the complex and byzantine procedures. Then you get money, lots of it.

    You think along naive lines of getting things to work correctly, efficiently, to help people and at a fair price. These values, nice as they are, simply can't compete against the combined forces of "free-market" (which is anything but free) ideology and the collusion between government and the private sector.

  • Re:No dude... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BradMajors (995624) on Sunday December 22, 2013 @12:41AM (#45758065)

    The worst part is the government website is totally unnecessary.

    There already exists perfectly good working websites for buying insurance (such as einsurance). All that was required was to add the government subsidy feature.

  • Naive (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 22, 2013 @12:53AM (#45758099)

    Charmingly naive, but naive.

    The author of that article asks, several times in several ways, why the government always gets it wrong and the lasting solutions always come from the little guys.

    The answer has less to do with the size of the organization than the number of organizations all pitching competitive solutions. Yes, a thousand 10-person companies are probably going to do a better job in the long run than a single 10,000-person company or government entity, on problems in the right scale. But you'll never hear about 9997 of those solutions because half of them are dumb and the other half, while not obviously dumb, are inferior in some critical way.

    (Then why do we have big companies and governments? Because some projects are simply too large for a ten-person outfit. That, the author got right.)

  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Sunday December 22, 2013 @01:12AM (#45758149)

    I'm only asking because I'm on the lookout for techniques to derail a discussion. A "misdirect" is calling attention to something irrelevant but intended to provoke an emotional response. It's used to push more-relevant posts down the page - hopefully below the fold.

    You must be new here. The majority of the intelligent and thoughtful discourse evaporated when Slashdot was bought out by Dice. If you want to see what the future looks like, punch in Then vomit in your mouth. It's been replaced with paid schills and hobbyists. There are a few of us left from the old guard, but we're only here because, frankly, there's nowhere else to go. Every promising new forum website seems to be shortly after swallowed whole by "Web 2.0" and it promptly goes to shit in an effort to look trendy and hip, at the expense of actual content and relevant discourse.

    The post you're replying to was not accidental. It was quite deliberate. Like all things Web 2.0, very little of what is passed off as original or user-contributed content actually is. About a third of the posts here on Slashdot are now by 3rd parties who may or may not be affiliated with Dice, who in turn are just subcontractors for larger business ventures; Shell companies within shell companies.

    It's part of a new "dark net" of small companies in quiet office complexes filled with nothing but a few cubes and employees who show up and are handed a 3 ring binder with pre-cooked posts and responses to "criticism" of whatever position they're being paid to represent under a pseudonym.

    Welcome to the real Web 2.0.

  • by pepty (1976012) on Sunday December 22, 2013 @01:30AM (#45758201)
    Just out of curiosity: How many super-jumbo IT projects, whether the clients are public or private, are up and running within two months of the original deadline? If Oracle had taken the job wouldn't we be expecting the site to be up and running sometime in early 2015?
  • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Sunday December 22, 2013 @02:06AM (#45758333) Homepage Journal

    You're simply pointing out the administration's ineptitude. They insisted that the system be put into place, they insisted that it meet a firm time schedule, insisted on putting incompetent "managers" in charge of everything, and further insisted on hiring incompetent "technical" advisors and "engineers".

    There was no compromise in any portion of the planning or implementation. On the day of the Grand Opening, it became appallingly obvious that the Emperor had no clothes.

    If anyone in a position of authority had the brains one might find stowed up an orangatan's anus, they just might have averted some of the embarrassment that we saw when the site opened to the public.

    I'm perfectly happy to poke fun at Oracle, too. But, Oracle would at least have come up with some face saving explanations, and they could probably have cobbled together some backup scheme to make it appear they were doing something useful. Sometimes, appearances are more important than reality. In the case of the Obamacare site, not only did they fail utterly, but they failed to appear to understand how utterly they failed.

  • Re:No dude... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sir_Sri (199544) on Sunday December 22, 2013 @02:10AM (#45758351)

    There are so many websites out there that do far more complex operation, and they seem to have very little problem.

    Not really at least not that worked at this scale from day one. The closest you're going to get to needing to support millions of unique users on the first day, and hundreds of thousands simultaneously are things like MMO launches and WoW expansion packs or something like google+. And most of those can scale by replication and sectioning people off so it's highly parallel, or are built on already substantial infrastructure. If you crunch the math, there were only 90 days from launch to end date, and you need to enrol about 25 million people or something in that time (the uninsured who don't live in states with their own exchanges), so the daily load is actually quite high, particularly with a large number of people hitting the site to browse and decide. It's also quite likely that they gambled on more states setting up their own exchanges... and lost.

    The backend of games and google+ of those is trivial compared to, which not only needs to talk to databases from federal agencies, but it needs to connect to dozens of insurance companies with multiple sets of rules and regulations. Sure an MMO needs to do math, but one designer with no technical training can decide what equations to use and if they get it wrong no big deal. When you're dealing with money - and we're talking about healthcare that's going to be worth a couple of hundred billion dollars bought through this site, even a 1% error rate is going to cause no end of problems.

    is that it's a simple matter of input from the user, and then a matter of storage of that input, and maybe some calculations along the way - all very basic stuff for today's world.

    Input from the user that needs to be checked against multiple databases that aren't yours, that have private information in them. Then talking to multiple insurance companies in multiple jurisdictions with slightly different rules etc.

    I'm not saying that excuses about 2 months of failure, but one should not assume this is a simple project, that they somehow did not realize that this would require probably 10x the server capacity they had is a complete failure. But other projects that are huge and stable have spent a lot more than 500 million dollars to get to that point, over a lot of years. These guys were trying to solve a problem no one else has ever had to solve on this scale. That they didn't recognize that is pathetic, but we shouldn't suppose this is an easy project.

  • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Sunday December 22, 2013 @02:19AM (#45758377) Homepage Journal

    Bullshit. Even Obama was proud to call it Obamacare - until it failed. Democrats owned the damned thing all along, and Obama is the major shareholder. Screw the politically correct claptrap. There isn't a person in the United States (minus immature juveniles and senile old bastards) who doesn't know what is being referred to when Obamacare is mentioned.

  • Re:No dude... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jeremi (14640) on Sunday December 22, 2013 @02:21AM (#45758385) Homepage

    Wake up Amerikka - that subsidy is a temporary, fleeting thing. And, once you are registered, once you're in the system, you can never again be without insurance.

    Well, yes. That's the point -- universal healthcare through universal insurance. Not really all that different from what we've done with auto insurance for years, and that works well enough.

    Admittedly it's not as efficient or reliable as a single-payer system, but it's nevertheless preferable to our previous "just wait until you're at death's door, then go to the emergency room and run up an amazing tab on somebody else's dime" healthcare model.

    Oh well - maybe they won't have Big Macs at the relocation and reeducation camps

    Dystopian fantasies, cute. Not a good approach if you want to be taken seriously, though.

  • Re:No dude... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SuperKendall (25149) on Sunday December 22, 2013 @02:31AM (#45758417)

    Well, yes. That's the point -- universal healthcare through universal insurance.

    Will you be so calm and matter of fact about it when there is a law that every citizen must own a gun?

    Because making a law that requires citizens to purchase something from private companies means that the government can make you buy ANYTHING (or pay a fee).

    P.S. If " universal healthcare through universal insurance." was really the point, why were unions and many other organizations who contributed to Democrats given a waver for the requirement?

  • by sumdumass (711423) on Sunday December 22, 2013 @02:53AM (#45758469) Journal

    HE also said if you like your insurance you can keep it, if you like your doctor, you can keep him. Something about period too.

    It seems to me that Obama is just like any other politicians and lieing out his ass to get whatever he wants done and it wouldn't surprise me if that statement wasn't concocted with the knowledge of trying to get rid of the Obamacare name simply to make it appear to be working better than it is.

    I mean seriously, he set up the perfect scam with that line, he says when it works good, they will not call it obamacare and if he gets it called something else, it must be working good then right?

  • by sumdumass (711423) on Sunday December 22, 2013 @03:10AM (#45758517) Journal

    There have been informal surveys that ask if you prefer Obamacare or the Patient protection and affordable care act and they pick either one based on emotions rather than facts.

    I spoke with a girl just the other day who said she didn't know much about it when I asked if you got her government mandated insurance yet. She was outraged when I told her she was facing a penalty if she didn't have insurance by the end of the year.

    The bottom line is that people just don't pay enough attention. Sometimes, they hear something that sounds good and like it, sometimes they hear a person is associated with it and like it. Sometimes, you are better off trying to guess what color any random woman's underwear might be then expect people to know about this stuff.

  • by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Sunday December 22, 2013 @04:37AM (#45758723) Journal

    True, the code for that ill-fated website was really out-of-this-world in term of lousiness, but in the whole scheme of things the developers play but a very minor role in that disaster.

    The ones who should shoulder the most blame are the people who awarded the entire project (without proper bidding process) to a totally incompetent company due to political reason ( read: cronyism )

    The ones who should shoulder the second largest portion of the blame are those who, despite receiving untold millions in funding, they hired totally incompetent people to be in charge of that project.

  • by jmac_the_man (1612215) on Sunday December 22, 2013 @08:49AM (#45759273)

    It's a Republican plan but it's his signature bill.

    It's not a Republican plan. ABSOLUTELY ZERO Republicans voted for this monstrosity in the House, and ABSOLUTELY ZERO voted for it in the Senate.

    The fact that two guys who worked at the Heritage Foundation 20 years ago wrote a white paper saying "Hillarycare won't work without an individual mandate" doesn't make Obamacare a Republican plan. You guys screwed this up on your own.

  • by taiwanjohn (103839) on Sunday December 22, 2013 @09:59AM (#45759469)

    punch in Then vomit in your mouth

    Damn you, girlintraining! I just checked out the new "beta" site and now I'm choking back the bile. Holy shit, does that ever suck! It's like a satanic spawn of HuffPo and FB... Painful.

    I wonder how long the "legacy" version will remain available after the changeover? Heaven help us.

  • by sumdumass (711423) on Sunday December 22, 2013 @09:14PM (#45763613) Journal

    I see you are optimistic but facts simply do not pan out for you. First, the HMOs BS that we said was the cause of need to reform healthcare was largely the fault of the federal government in the first place. The HMO acts was created in the 1960's and signed into law in 73 I believe in order to address the costs of medicare which is constantly being changed to this day to do the same. Senator Kennedy was instrumental in both, title VII of the social security acts (medicare) and the HMO acts and leading the charge of needing to fix his failings of the past with health care reform yet again.

    But to claim this was a Republican plan is just another lie that will blow back in their faces. Sure, republicans thought most of it up and passed it around, but it was rejected by large margins both when it was created and when it was passed into law. That is a bit like saying segregation is a democrat idea since they largely were behind it but rejected it since then. Of course the lie can go on and some people will not bother fact checking, but those who are impacted by the changes of the ACA will likely look deeply into the claims this time around. You don't get too many changes to burn the people and keep your job unless you have a lot of blind support. For the most part, the burning only effects small factions of people- except this time around.

    Note: if by some fluke or mischance Obamacare doesn't lower costs or cover more people, it's still good for the Dems ( although bad for Obama ) so long as they keep hitting on the fact that the plan is and has always been an idea favored and promoted by Republicans.

    NO, not really. You see, the people who are supposed to sign up in order to pay for the sick and so on are likely not to sign up. When the penalties increase to the point they force people to sign up, there will be resentment among the masses working against the democrats. As for claiming it is a republican law, that is easily dispelled and with the trust issues stemming from if you like your plan, it won't be hard to get the truth out. The fact of the matter is that the plan was developed as an alternative to other plans being purposed in the past and it was largely rejected by republicans then. Bill Clinton would have signed it into law had the republicans ever pushed for it to become law when they took the majority of the house and senate during his tenure. The republicans had possession of the house, senate, and presidency during G.W, Bush's term and rejected the plan. But when the democrats take it up, they magically claim it is a republican plan despite all this rejection and the continued rejection it saw during passage and implementation of law which absolutely no republicans voted for.

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness. -- John Muir