BUSINESS

Obamacare Website Glitches Reveal Larger Government Problem

MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 08: A message is seen on the computer indicating that there are too many visitors on the Affordable Care
MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 08: A message is seen on the computer indicating that there are too many visitors on the Affordable Care Act site to continue, as navigator Nini Hadwen helps people shop for health insurance during a navigation session put on by the Epilepsy Foundation Florida to help people sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act on October 8, 2013 in Miami, Florida. The United States government continues to be partially shut down as Republicans hold out hope to cut funding for the Affordable Care Act. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The website glitches plaguing the high-profile roll out of President Obama’s health care reform law aren’t just an Obamacare problem, they’re a government problem.

The federal government spends more than $80 billion per year on information technology, but the resulting websites often take years to build and are glitchy once they launch, according to experts cited by the Washington Post. That’s because instead of hiring savvy Silicon Valley programmers -- like those who worked on websites for Obama’s campaigns -- to build the systems, the government tends to contract with firms that are better at securing contracts than they are at developing web sites.

Last week when the government launched healthcare.gov, the site where Americans can buy health coverage through the exchanges set up under Obamacare, few were able to get past error screens and long wait times. While White House officials claimed a big reason for the glitches was overwhelming traffic, IT experts told Reuters that the problems were more likely the result of a problem in the system’s design.

Adding evidence to this theory, President Obama’s top technology adviser Todd Park told the New York Times Monday that a major software piece of the site buckled under the pressure of so many visitors, causing the glitches. The software component, which was designed by private contractors, is responsible for the part of the site where people create user accounts.

The government took down a key part of the site for parts of last weekend to give programmers a chance to fix the problems. Obama administration officials reiterated on Monday that they were working to fix the glitches, citing the 8.6 million unique visitors that visited the site in a week.

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