Healthcare dot UGH

Friday, October 18, 2013

Transcript launched in the beginning of the month to much frustration, as hundreds of thousands of people flocked to buy insurance from the online exchange. Because of technical glitches, the majority of these users were turned away due to website problems. Bob talks to programmer and Bloomberg Businessweek contributor Paul Ford who says while was open for business at the beginning of the month, it’s failure may be attributed to its closed code.


Paul Ford

Hosted by:

Bob Garfield

Comments [4]

Atul Varma from Brooklyn

In response to MFan's criticisms, I'd argue that there's a distinction between creating software using open-source components versus creating software using an open-source *process*. I think MFan is addressing the former, while Paul Ford is actually arguing for the latter.

Creating software using open-source components doesn't guarantee much of anything: if the final software is under wraps, then the only people who can fix its bugs are the ones being paid for it. However, if the software is developed using an open-source process, it can even use proprietary components like Microsoft .NET or Adobe Flash--but anyone who understands the code can help fix bugs, which is a potentially huge boon that might have prevented the debacle.

Nov. 23 2013 10:32 AM

A friend sent this message:

"I just now went to the OBMASCARE WEBSITE ( to apply for health insurance. The site was unable to handle the traffic (surprise!), so I called the number suggested: (800) 318-2596

Someone reasonably smart and very helpful answered immediately. It took only 26 minutes, 41 seconds to dial, apply and complete the call. . . .

I answered the questions on the phone with a person, I am glad I called; I wouldn’t have been able to answer online without knowing the context of some questions."

Has anyone considered that the people who need health care assistance the most may not have Internet access in the first place? The Republicans want us to think that because the web site is not functioning, the entire program must be scrapped.

Oct. 25 2013 12:02 AM
MFan from Staten Island

As someone who's been a professional web developer for well over a decade, and a systems architect for almost as long, I really must call BS on your guest's assertion that Open Source would have saved the day.

I've led and worked on teams building very high-traffic sites using many "closed"/proprietary and "open" technologies/platforms, and I can assure you, poor design is platform agnostic. In English: it is just as possible to design and build a bug-laden, inefficient and unscalable website using Open Source as it is using anything else. It's an issue with the team, not the technology. Indeed, many proprietary architectures (such as .NET) have evolved in such a way as to encourage best practices in ways that Open Source, being more mutable by design, often does not.

If one wishes to lay blame for the site's floundering on something, a good place to start would be the government contracting process, that excludes the smaller, more advanced and nimble companies in favor of the large and stodgy, who put their efforts into building lucrative connections rather than building good code.

Oct. 23 2013 03:18 PM

You don't have to be a computer expert or a hacker to realize that the problem with on-line enrollment for health insurance is due, at least in part, to a Denial-of-Service attack launched at the behest of the Republican party. Whatever the shortcomings of the site's design, it has obviously been made worse by a concerted effort to jam the site. Even if zombie-drone computers are not being employed (is your PC running a tad slow of late?), the right-wing zealots will put all their effort into wrecking every facet of the Affordable Care Act, especially, so that no one can get insured.

I would consider anyone who doubts the likelihood of right-wing sabotage to be hopelessly naïve, as every other means to undermine "Obamacare" has been used. I would be interested to learn how many attempts have been made to enroll under the name Barack HUSSEIN Obama or Osama bin Laden or Mickey Mouse or any other name the Republicans would consider hilarious.

Once must expect such tactics with dirty fighters.

Oct. 20 2013 11:13 PM

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