Top 10 Upsides To Debacle - InformationWeek

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Top 10 Upsides To Debacle

You didn't know there was a bright side to the botched rollout of the Obamacare website? Get your snark on.

The October 1, 2013, launch of will go down as one of the biggest IT debacles in US history, as the malfunctioning site frustrated millions of Americans seeking to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, the centerpiece of Barack Obama's presidency. Six months later, even with President Obama claiming success now that more than 7.5 million people have managed to sign up for private health insurance under the new law, the specter of the misfire looms large heading into November's midterm elections, especially with the resignation last week of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. 

Former Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Former Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius
(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Ah, but every cloud has a silver lining, no? The glass isn't half empty but half full? When life hands you lemons you make lemonade?

Maybe not. But with the benefit of six months of hindsight, we still choose to see the bright side of the botched rollout. And so we bring you:

The Top 10 Positive Outcomes Of The Debacle:

10. Provided huge monetary windfall for identity thieves, thereby increasing domestic car sales.

9. Set a bar that ensures relative success of all future federal government IT projects.

8. Doctor shortages lead to nostalgic use of leeches.

7. New, cool term "tech surge" replaced old, negative term "IT cluster#@&#."

(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

6. By discouraging use of the healthcare system, inheritance tax revenue increased.

5. Boosted self-esteem of otherwise under-achieving hackers.

4. Made Bush Administration's Hurricane Katrina response appear competent by comparison.

3. Recent overuse has removed stigma from the term "computer glitch."

2. During her tenure, Kathleen Sebelius could not simultaneously serve as Secretary of Defense.

1. Made taxpayers appreciative of service levels at the local DMV.

Can you think of other upsides to's stumble? Leave a comment below.

Download Healthcare IT In The Obamacare Era, the InformationWeek Healthcare digital issue on changes driven by regulation. Modern technology created the opportunity to restructure the healthcare industry around accountable care organizations, but ACOs also put new demands on IT.

Rob Preston currently serves as VP and editor in chief of InformationWeek, where he oversees the editorial content and direction of its various website, digital magazine, Webcast, live and virtual event, and other products. Rob has 25 years of experience in high-tech ... View Full Bio

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User Rank: Ninja
4/18/2014 | 7:35:40 AM
Closer to universal health care
The health care act gets US residents closer to universal health care. Still, there are plenty of people who even with this act do not get access to care, either because of shortcomings in the law or by religious doctrine that forces health care providers to close shop.

Other countries have universal health care and mandatory health care insurance for about 100 years and they fared quite well with that approach. They also have no artificial restrictions in place as the US has, mainly that healt insurances are not allowed to operate across state borders. They may appear under the same name, but they cannot sell the same plan across the nation. Further, there are many variations in billing codes and rules and simplifying those into a nationwide standard would make billing for providers much easier. Currently, they need to hire several people to do nothing else than submit bills to insurance companies. Generally, there is a far to big administrative overhead in health care. That drives cost without improving service. The same can also be noticed at universities, where academic staff is about the same as ten years ago while administration more than doubled.

As far as is concerned, that project was doomed to fail from the get go due to the federal procurement rules that Congress put in place over the decades. In a well meant "spread the wealth" approach every federal project has to be awarded to multiple companies. In this case it was over 50 entities involved and none of them were in charge for the whole project nor was there anyone assigned with project management tasks having the experience with such large projects. Let's be fair, was one of the largest IT projects ever put together. Many smaller projects are not ready even after more time.

Congress needs to change procurement rules. For that they can - again - look at the forward thinkers in Europe. For example, Great Britain had a few disasters of the same kind, but they then changed the way how projects are awarded. There are now much less entities involved and one of them is clearly tasked with project lead and project management. Since then projects get completed, work as expected, and more often than not are on time and on budget if not even done faster and cheaper. In the current constellation Congress is more interested in blaming and bashing rather than fixing problems. As long as the majority says no to everything that will not change. In that regards I see no hope, there are too many who focus solely on ideology and personal gain than actually doing the job they were elected for.
Lorna Garey
Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
4/16/2014 | 4:56:57 PM
Re: Chime In With Your Own
Rob, I think the biggest joke will be on the GOP in 2016 when Hillary rolls into the White House ;->
User Rank: Strategist
4/16/2014 | 4:33:33 PM
This is one of the few IT projects I've heard about where half the people responsible for governance wanted it to fail and pretty much did everything in their power to make sure it failed. Yet, in spite of those efforts, it succeeded. Pretty remarkable. Probably a case study in how to succeed against all odds. 
User Rank: Moderator
4/16/2014 | 3:17:14 PM
At least ACA is an attempt at something
Whenever the government does stuff, we want to know everything, and bad news moves the media. When it comes to private, we're lucky to hear anything at all, because only good news (and a little skin) pays for media.

As far as the ACA goes, seems to me no one really expects the healthcare industry to lower it's prices - after all that's not logical. So who else has any chance to do anything - except the federal government, or some intergalactic emergency. I wonder if healthcare providers send Christmas cards to the the healthcare insurance companies. I know didn't get one.


To me, the politics of the healthcare issue is revealing itself as a states rights issue. Seems to have less and less to do with the health of communities across the US. And more to do with C. Murray's super zips.


As for tech and the rollout, I guess it's about big data and latency. One wonders if the private players had been able to make the rollout look good, would anyone wonder why they didn't do it before, and cheaper?



Honolulu HI

User Rank: Ninja
4/16/2014 | 2:57:30 PM
To President Obama:

Success. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

-- Inigo Montoya
User Rank: Author
4/16/2014 | 9:35:42 AM
Chime In With Your Own
I can't claim credit (culpability?) for the above attempts at humor. My cousin Joe Tully, the wit of our extended family, fed me a bunch of these. Got any barbs yourself? 
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