Marketplace Closed

Everything must come full circle.

And today that happened to a website. Well, it’s more than just a website. I guess you could call it an opportunity, that is if you are lucky enough to have actually partook in said opportunity.

Today, on the last day of sign-ups, the grey cloud surfacing over healthcare.gov started to spout out a bit more rain before Death comes creeping in just before midnight. The day was full of, what else but, delays?

Albeit, the slight delay was, other than nothing new, just a hiccup on Healthcare.gov’s last day of living. Most outlets reported the site was back up and running, or stumbling, again by 8 a.m.. The Obama administration pinned the latest website woe on a technical issue thanks to regularly scheduled overnight maintenance the site frequently experiences. According to the administration, the volume of users had no bearing upon the site’s static appearance even though reports indicate “thousands” rushed to sign up just hours before the marketplace closed.

And here we are, full circle.

If you recall, the roll out of Healthcare.gov was nothing too spectacular. Actually, it was downright embarrassing. The government probably doesn’t appreciate me bringing that up now that things are effectively better. The Affordable Care Act was supposed to bring about an era of glitz and glam when one thought about healthcare. Easy and quick sign-ups. Hassle-free. No haggling. You know, like buying a car? But all those interested in pursing a healthcare option got was a lemon. The figure of not thousands, but millions, was thrown around to quantify the number who were expected to sign up by the first of the new year. A real lofty goal it seemed for a site that only garnered six users before imploding like a super nova on the first day of it’s existence (I’m pretty sure that is what happens, but I’ll have to watch Cosmos to be sure). What a birth.

The political pundits had a hay-day throughout the first weeks and months of the program’s establishment. This was largely because federal officials did not release any solid figures until nearly Thanksgiving — more than a month after the site became live (October 1 to be exact). People who didn’t have a doctor still didn’t have a doctor and they probably didn’t think they were getting a doctor.

The healthcare legislation, once seen and promoted as a beacon of hope in America’s future and Obama’s presidency, was a talking point again, just as it was in 2010 when passed. But it was for all the wrong reasons.

Fast-forward to mid-December. President Obama, on what is nothing more than a Christmas present from the Internet, announces during a press conference the website was able to support nearly a half-million new users. Progress and a BandAid on the deep wound from day uno.

So what happened? Why the mess? Healthcare.gov went the way of a bad colonoscopy. The crap hit the fan.

Well, probably a lot of things happened. I’m not one to tell you how to create a website, but the administration ignored one thing from the get-go. Healthcare.gov is, or was, a marketplace. A place to shop. Last time I checked, when I looked for overpriced textbooks on Amazon.com, I was able to look without creating a profile. I was free to browse, just as I would be at a grocery store or a, um, marketplace. But Healthcare.gov made someone sign up and create an account prior to shopping. It’s almost like paying for your groceries before you pick them out. Mandatory user accounts prior to shopping = system backlog.

Enter the frozen page, the image (inset) that played background and got all the airtime during that analysis on the 24-hour news cycle. The system backlog was caused by too many users on the system. Think of what happens when too many raindrops fall on a blade of grass. The grass falls down, right? That’s what happens, unless of course you live on Astroturf. So the next issue came with the shopping itself. Because not all of the data and eligibility requirements were crosschecked with the numerous agencies (DoD, VA, IRS, YMCA), customers who actually did qualify for a specific plan were told they actually don’t qualify for a plan, vice e versa. That creates confusion, frustration, and more backlogs as people try and circumnavigate around the site in order to find out how they can get on the plan they want to be on. Like finding the Holy Grail.




Please enjoy the music while you wait

But ultimately, the reason why Healthcare.gov failed is because it is a public-sector run consumer project. There simply wasn’t enough testing involved. Not enough betas. Not enough discussion groups. Not enough controls. All that crazy science talk and marketing jargon that nobody seems to care about was actually something that someone didn’t care about! Oops. The government simply could not support a server network, could not develop a website, and could not (but should have) anticipate the large scale investment that Healthcare.gov became. The monopolization of the healthcare system through Healthcare.gov could not be as successful as a site like Amazon or eBay or even a game like Candy Crush Saga. But we should have been reminded of that. And the government should have been prepared.

Did things get better? Slowly but surely. Today, millions have signed up; a figure that might have seemed impossible last November.

Now here we are, standing just a mere two and a half hours before the effective deadline for coverage. It ends tonight. No extensions. No excuses, I guess. If you don’t have healthcare tomorrow morning, you have to face a borage of federal fines or economic sanctions. I get the two confused.

I am fortunate enough to work for an employer that offers healthcare, but they are feeling the burden. We’re seeing increasing costs across the board with our insurance rates. It is not a staggering cost, but it is enough to raise some eyebrows and warrant concern for the future. But I didn’t have to rely on a faulty system. If you’re a die-hard support of Healthcare.gov, more power to you. I applaud you for standing beside what you believe and for obviously living under a rock for the past five months.

So the clouds are lifting and the sun is beginning to shine. The marketplace is closed. All is well in the valley and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I just hope you have healthcare to keep you away from that light a little bit longer.



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