Conservative estimates of the amount of taxpayer dollars spent on President Barack Obama’s glitch-ridden healthcare exchange website place its cost somewhere in the range of $500 million.
According to figures from the Government Accountability Office, nearly $394 million from fiscal year 2010 through March 2013 was spent on contracts to build the “federally facilitated exchanges.” An estimated additional $150 million has been spent on administrative costs associated with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
By comparison, here’s what similar investments have garnered in the private tech industry in the United States, according to an assessment by Digital Trends:
- After receiving an initial round of investment in June 2004, Facebook grew and improved until 2010 without spending $500 million.
- Twitter operated with $360.17 million in funding from 2006 until 2011, when it received an additional $400 million in funding.
- Before being bought by Facebook for $1 billion, the wildly popular photo sharing company Instagram operated with just $57.5 million in funding from 2010 to 2012.
- Linkedin, the preferred social network of business professionals, has raised only $200 million in funding.
Facebook has more than 1 billion active users. Twitter handles more than 340 million tweets each day. On any given day, more than 7.3 million people might be active on Instagram. And Linkedin is helping more than 225 million professionals throughout the world network at the moment.
Obama’s online health insurance exchange, after being online for just more than two weeks, is falling apart. And while it may seem natural for glitches to be part of the initial rollout process, reports indicate that the Obamacare website is rife with problems that are much more serious than a few lines of errant computer code.
On Monday, The New York Times reported that up to 5 million lines of coding could need to be rewritten in order to improve the Obamacare enrollment system to the point that users can actually make it through the enrollment process. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said over the weekend it was bringing in “some of the best and brightest” to fix the website. But the job may not be finished in time for uninsured Americans to sign up for health insurance in time to comply with the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.
“Administration officials approached the contractors last week to see if they could perform the necessary repairs and reboot the system by Nov. 1,” the Times report said. “However, that goal struck many contractors as unrealistic, at least for major components of the system.
“Some specialists working on the project said the online system required such extensive repairs that it might not operate smoothly until after the Dec. 15 deadline for people to sign up for coverage starting in January, although that view is not universally shared.”
Even once the surface problems are repaired, one expert told the Times, other malfunctions are certain to become apparent.
The President assured Americans in a speech from the White House Rose Garden on Monday: “Nobody’s madder than me about the fact that the website isn’t working as well as it should, which means it’s going to get fixed.”
Flocked by what the White House described as a group of people who “have either benefited from the health care law already or are helping consumers learn about what the law means for them and how they can get covered,” Obama went on the say that the website failures are not representative of the Affordable Care Act’s overall effect.
“The essence of the law, the health insurance that’s available to people, is working just fine,” Obama said.
But, some observers believe that the President is lying.
Writing for Forbes, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research Avik Roy, posited earlier in the month that part of the reason the healthcare exchange website is so dysfunctional is related to a lack of transparency over the massive healthcare cost increases that accompany Obamacare.
Roy wrote: “Healthcare.gov forces you to create an account and enter detailed personal information before you can start shopping. This, in turn, creates a massive traffic bottleneck, as the government verifies your information and decides whether or not you’re eligible for subsidies. HHS bureaucrats knew this would make the website run more slowly. But they were more afraid that letting people see the underlying cost of Obamacare’s insurance plans would scare people away.”
Later in the article he continued: “A Manhattan Institute analysis I helped conduct found that, on average, the cheapest plan offered in a given state, under Obamacare, will be 99 percent more expensive for men, and 62 percent more expensive for women, than the cheapest plan offered under the old system. And those disparities are even wider for healthy people.
“That raises an obvious question. If 50 million people are uninsured today, mainly because insurance is too expensive, why is it better to make coverage even costlier?”
In short, the White House likely knew that its health insurance exchange websites would crash once opened. It has even been suggested that Administration officials were repeatedly warned by IT experts that the bottleneck created by making Americans sign in and provide mountains of information before getting to see the actual cost of the Obamacare plans would crash the site. But, it seems, the President and his Administration officials made the determination that criticism over a broken website was better than the alternative of not hiding the prices, thereby revealing that, for the average American, the Affordable Care Act is anything but affordable.