Did Shutdown Overshadow Failures in Obamacare Website?

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Oct. 5 2013 5:57 PM

Did Shutdown Overshadow Failures in Obamacare Website?

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If the shutdown hadn’t happened, would we be talking about what an embarrassing failure the insurance exchanges website created under the health care law was for the White House? Four days after the exchanges launched, many people were still unable to get access. Since Tuesday, a total of 8.6 million people have visited the Obamacare website, points out the New York Times. And it’s this number that the administration likes to roll out to explain away the failures, saying interest far exceeded expectations, an argument President Obama himself used during a recent Associated Press interview.

That explanation may not be entirely accurate though. Reuters talks to five technology experts who insist that the flaws in the Obamacare website have as much to do with architecture as traffic. In other words, the administration seems to have messed up the critical rollout of one of the most pivotal portions of President Obama’s signature domestic legislation. "Adding capacity sounds great until you realize that if you didn't design it right that won't help," said one expert. "The architecture of the software may limit how much you can add on to it. I suspect they'll have to reconfigure a lot of it."

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A section of the website will be offline for several hours over the weekend to allow an upgrade of the capabilities, which experts see as a sign that it isn’t just a question of adding more servers. "It's a bug in the system, a coding problem," another expert said.

Meanwhile though, Obama is urging Americans to have patience and not give up on signing up. “Folks are working around the clock and have been systematically reducing the wait times,” Obama told the Associated Press.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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