Addressing the initial implementation of his new health care law, President Obama acknowledged that website glitches are a problem. Now, we have former Obama officials calling for firings of key point people in this rollout and detractors of the law may get what they want: a delay of the individual mandate. But, was this technological fiasco avoidable?
Brian Lilley of Sun News, a Canadian network, didn't explicitly say that on the October 21 broadcast of his show - Byline - but he did delve into the sordid past of the company that built Healthcare.gov: CGI Federal.
Lilly lists CGI Federal's history of botched projects, such as its work on a failed billion dollar contract to build a health care registry site database for the Ontario Health Agency.
CGI lost the $46 million contract after missing three years of deadlines and falling 14 months behind schedule.
Given its failure on a much smaller project, Lilly questions the Obama administration's choice of CGI to handle the more daunting task of Obamacare:
"Last year, it was fired for failing to build a much smaller health database in Ontario. Now, there are questions about whether it can succeed in building a much bigger one with Obamacare."
The problems with the Obamacare website might've been avoided, if the Obama administration had just "taken a quick look north of the border," he says:
"Given CGI's long history of government contracts and of cost overruns, missed deadlines and canceled contacts, should someone have been raising red flags inside the Obama administration? Well, a quick look north of the border would likely have set off some alarm bells."
"The key question American taxpayers should be asking is: did it have to happen this way, and is it the government's fault or CGIs?"
Bloomberg BusinessWeek reported today that the whole testing process was rushed in order to implement the new law:
"The introduction was so rushed that, as recently as last week, the exchange's computer code contained placeholder language that programmers typically use in preliminary drafts, said Clay Johnson, a former White House presidential innovation fellow during 2012-2013."
"'It was a perfect storm for an IT meltdown,' said John Gorman, a former assistant to the director of the Health Care Financing Administration's Office of Managed Care, the predecessor to the agency responsible, now known as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS."
So, given the track record of CGI, you'd think the Obama administration would've vetted this company before giving them a lot of money for a ton of headaches. Then again, we are talking about government, where inefficiency is its life's blood.