Obamacare Website Cost $634 Million, Faces Months of Glitches

Image: Obamacare Website Cost $634 Million, Faces Months of Glitches Bob Ettinger sits at a frozen computer station on Oct. 1 while attempting to enroll in Obamacare at the Community Health Center in New Britain, Conn.

Thursday, 10 Oct 2013 12:47 PM

By Lisa Barron

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Healthcare.gov, the federal Obamacare website, cost taxpayers more than $630 million, nearly seven times its original estimate of $93 million, new figures reveal.

Yet it will likely take months to get it running properly following its disastrous rollout last week, when those hoping to enroll instead experienced an online nightmare, with websites crashing, refusing to load, and failing to offer comprehensive choices.

Urgent: ObamaCare Is About to Strike — Are You Prepared?

"It’s like trying to repair a car while someone is driving it," George Edwards, a computer scientist and professor at the University of Southern California, told Fox News.

The administration has tried to explain away the problems as a result of heavy traffic.

"Take away the volume and it works," President Barack Obama's chief technology adviser, Todd Park, told USA Today.

But technical experts say the problems are inherent to the design of the website itself.

"I was trying to use it as a consumer … and I could see the Javascript errors," James Turner of software company Beeonics told Fox News, referring to the code that activates within the browser.

"I've been a software developer for 33 years now," he said. "After a while when something is not working right, you just kind of know the reasons why things are failing. It looks like the user interface was something that was tested least, or not done right, or both."

Turner said he tried to compare insurance prices several times and in four different browsers, but without any luck.

Tens of thousands of people who have tried to register since the website went online Oct. 1 have been blocked from enrolling and asked to reset their passwords, reports CBS News.

Luke Chung, an online database programmer, told the network that despite repairs over the weekend, the entire site needs a complete overhaul.

"It wasn't designed well, it wasn't implemented well, and it looks like nobody tested it," he said, adding, "It's not even ready for beta testing for my book," he said, adding, "I would be ashamed and embarrassed if my organization delivered something like that."

The Department of Better Technology, a private company that builds software for governments, claimed CGI, the company contracted to build the site, was not qualified to do the job.

Urgent: ObamaCare Is About to Strike — Are You Prepared?

Contracting officers, it said in a recent blog post, are "afraid of things going wrong down the line inside of procurement, so they select vendors with a lot of 'federal experience' to do the work. When things still go wrong, they simply throw more money at the same people who caused the problem to fix the problem."

"The contractors who made this website were at best sloppy, and at worst unqualified for the job," it states, noting, "Not only did the site not scale at launch, it was riddled with errors, and it clearly wasn’t ready to go."

The White House was aware of that well ahead of the rollout but insisted on proceeding anyway, reports The Washington Post.

Robert Laszewski, a health care consultant with clients in the insurance industry, told the newspaper that insurers were complaining loudly that the site was not working smoothly during several teleconferences with officials at the Department of Health and Human Services before and after the exchange's launch.

"People were pulling out their hair," he said.

That could complicate the requirement for all individuals to use the new system or buy health insurance elsewhere by early 2014.

"How can we tax people for not buying a produce from a website that doesn't work?" asked House Speaker John Boehner.

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CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer said the White House should take Republicans' suggestion and delay Obamacare because of the miserable performance of the website.

"If they weren't fully ready, they should accept the advice that a lot of Republicans are giving them — delay it another year, get it ready, and make sure it works," he said Wednesday.

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In the meantime, the costs are mounting.

Noting that the actual cost of the website appears to have been "$634,320,919, Andrew Couts of digitaltrends said, "We, the taxpayers, seem to have forked up more than $634 million of the federal purse to build the digital equivalent of a rock."

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