Sunday, October 13, 2013



The Great Software War

One highly unusual decision, reached early in the project, proved critical: the Medicare and Medicaid agency assumed the role of project quarterback, responsible for making sure each separately designed database and piece of software worked with the others, instead of assigning  that task to a lead contractor.

Some people intimately involved in the project seriously doubted that the agency had the in-house capability to handle such a mammoth technical task of software engineering while simultaneously supervising 55 contractors.

Robert Pear, Sharon LaFraniere, and Ian Austen,  “From the Start, Signs of Trouble at Health Portal: Many Deadlines Missed: Web Site Problems May Imperial Finances of Insurance Market,  New York Times, October 13, 2013

Two score and two months  and three weeks ago, our President and his party unilaterally brought forth on this continent, a new health plan, conceived in Washington, and dedicated to the proposition that all of the nation's people  should receive equal access to afforable health care as dictated by the federal  government.
Now we are engaged in a great software war, testing whether this nation’s health care law so conceived and so dedicated,  can long endure.   We are now met at,  the website of  the great software battle-field of that war,  which went critical on October 1, 2013.  We have come to see if this  online marketplace will serve as the final resting place or the starting point of a noble  effort to supply  better and less costly health care for all of its citizens.
But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate - we cannot consecrate- we cannot hallow – this ground.  The brave politicians, living and dead, who struggled to bring this dream  to reality, have consecrated it, far above our power to add or detract.  The American people  will long  note, and they will long  remember what we did here, and they  will not forget what we failed to do here - to test our great software system before launching it.  We failed to anticipate that consumers would have difficulty creating online accounts and would be unable to compare plans;  we failed to note  that state-run exchanges would have problems using the federal verification hub to confirm applicants’ identities; and we  failed to give insurers complete and accurate enrollment data so consumers could sign up.   Ours was a grand, even grandiose, goal, but we have a great unfinished task remaining before us – to test,  to integrate and to prepare all the combined components to assure that our software works  for the people and by the people so they can obtain health plans and compare them to those offered in the past.
Tweet:  We are now engaged in a great software war, testing whether this nation’s health law,  as conceived and dedicated,  can long endure.

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