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Healthcare.Gov is Up and (Mostly) Running

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Healthcare.gov launched today. Users can log on to find out what kind of healthcare they're eligible for. One million people visited the site before 7AM today, which is mind-boggling, considering it launched at midnight. Two quick thoughts!

1. Conservatives who are touting the site's glitches as a synecdoche for Obamacare's failure sound very silly. It's impossible to roll out something as enormous and unprecedented as healthcare.gov without glitches. For perspective, when Apple released iOS 7 last month, there were bugs and delays. When Rockstar Games released Grand Theft Auto V, they had to delay its multiplayer component for two weeks because they couldn't get up to server capacity in time. These are two tech companies who, every few years, drop an enormous thing into the internet that everyone wants at the same time. They can't perfect that process. No one can. You just fix the problems as they arise and try to be transparent. It's just too early to say if the administration has done that.

2. Back in 2008, Candidate Obama promised he'd be a tech president. Specifically, that meant more openness, in the form of sites like data.gov. More broadly, Obama seemed to promise a government that you could interact with via nice websites instead of stacks and stacks of indecipherable paper forms. And on its face, Healthcare.gov actually looks like that promise realized. It's nice that you can learn about something as complex as your healthcare options from an interface that looks like the websites you're used to visiting every day.

And yet, healthcare.gov is launching in the midst of a government shutdown. The Twitter accounts for all these federally-funded organizations are dutifully reporting that they can't tweet anymore, since the people who are paid to tweet from those accounts cannot legally do so until the budget is restored. I'm not sure what I'm getting at, exactly, except that the contrast is striking. There's a limit to what technology can fix, and the messiness of political intransigence is beyond it. 

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