If We Built a Website in the Private Industry Like the One for Healthcare.Gov, We Would Be Fired and Possibly Sued

affordable-health-care-act-websiteLike many Americans, I too have gone onto the Affordable Care Act website to take a look at what all the fuss has been about. From a design perspective, things look pretty good on the front end of the website. It’s attractive enough and easy to navigate. It views well on mobile and tablet devices. There are plenty of pages containing information and answers to your questions. You can preview plans and prices to get an idea of the different levels of coverage offered in your state and county. But as a web developer, I’m more concerned about what is beneath the design inside the back end. Beyond the hype and the politics, there really is a good reason to be concerned about trusting this website with some of the most personal and detailed information of our lives. There are three key areas I personally have questions and concerns about:

Where is the ACA quality assurance? I think most people agree the website was probably not ready for prime time and the quality assurance is not topnotch. When I visited the website, I chose what I think might be comparable health care coverage my husband and I are already enjoying and chose to take a look at the Silver Plan. From what I could determine, we would be paying $300 more a month than we already are PLUS an as yet to be determined yearly out of pocket expenses. Don’t like that, but I’m willing to see details and make adjustments before passing judgment. To get more information, I had to create an account and delve into the back end of the system. I did that and didn’t like what I saw within three screen views. The amount of personal information that was requested was too much up front for my comfort and there was no incentive to give in to the request for more. I just wanted to look at their pricing, not share my entire life with them. I can shop for more details of a health care package in the private sector without having to divulge my name, address, social security number, etc. so I don’t understand why I’m not able to do the same through the ACA website. What else makes me hesitant is from what I’ve heard in the news–everywhere—the website isn’t holding up too well and people are getting 404 errors in the middle of their data entry. A Forbes contributor suggested yesterday the reason the website keeps breaking down is because the government doesn’t want to you to see the underlying costs. I don’t think he means to say the website is shutting down on purpose. Instead, the Forbes article goes on to explain the health care website requires the user to provide detailed information BEFORE you can start shopping. This means the system is overloaded with a bottleneck of information being compiled and returned to the view. It’s a lot to process, thus the 404 errors. I tend to agree with this theory. It’s unsettling to be in the middle of sharing your social security number and then suddenly have technical difficulties. I don’t trust this website just yet; therefore I’m not willing to divulge personal information. Sorry, but I’m not buying it (yeah, the pun is intended)…

What are the HHS numbers? Another thing that concerns me is Kathleen Sebelius, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, said earlier this month she cannot gauge how many people signed up for Obamacare. Seriously? You can’t tell me a huge organization like this–one that has to be compliant, is consumer oriented, and has a political score to keep–does not have analytics in place to gauge the numbers. Either she is not being truthful about this, or her team is failing the mark by not tracking the numbers and keeping her informed. You can easily look to the private industry for examples of how a well done marketing campaign and sound ecommerce results in multi-million dollar sales within days. Of course, no one wants to tout negative success. But again… I’m not buying it.

What about security? Last and most importantly, is the assurance that our personal data is and will remain safe. I don’t think this can be said just yet. Computer security expert John McAfee dropped a bombshell on Obamacare enrollees when he warned everyone of the strong possibility of phishing scams tied to the Obamacare websites with no way to protect those who enroll from hackers robbing their bank accounts blind. “I’ll ask you your social security, your date of birth, [so] an hour later I can empty your bank account,” he said when interviewed. He went on to say, “And this is going to happen, it’s going to happen soon. Nothing in the Obamacare system safeguards against this,” he said. He wouldn’t use the system for himself anyway, but McAfee’s words of caution cannot be discounted given his expertise with computer security.

Not buying it… the way the website is working, the pricing, the health care itself. As a web developer, I feel the pain of the development team working on the ACA website and hate to criticize. But HHS rushed this through too soon and Americans can be harmed by the shoddy workmanship of the sign up system. Perhaps by the time my insurance expires in February next year, they’ll have solved the problems and I’ll feel more comfortable exploring government health care options. But for now, I think I’ll sit back and just wait and see.

Sources: Forbes, Christian Science Monitor, and Washington Post