Online Voting…Look No Further Than Healthcare.gov?

healthcaregov

Image courtesy of http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5056/5471506281_046e3d7b09_b.jpg

After our lengthy discussion on the reliability and security of an online voting system, we may be experiencing a preview of the hiccups and issues the country could face implementing such a system. Look no further than our government’s implementation of National Healthcare and the national exchange website, Healthcare.gov. Suffering from severe downtime, people being denied access, etc, it appears that putting together a major online system that is nationally accessible for a purpose can have many pitfalls.

Read the following article taken from Mashable. After reading, comment on whether or not these difficulties shed some light into potential risks we as a country might face implementing an online voting system. Is this a fair comparison? Why or why not?

 

Obamacare’s hobbled health-insurance exchange will be fixed by December, according to themanagement consultant asked to salvage the website, in the first timeline provided for correcting the flaws.

Jeffrey Zients, in his initial public comments since President Barack Obama assigned him the job this week, said the site will be working “smoothly” by then. The project’s management has been reorganized, with UnitedHealth Group’s Quality Software Services unit taking over as lead contractor.

Since opening for business this month, the federal exchange serving 36 states has been plagued by delays, error messages and hang-ups that have prevented many customers from completing their enrollment. Ten Democratic senators led by Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire called on the Obama administration to extend the health law’s open-enrollment period beyond March 31.

“With the new general contractor in place and the focus that we have and what we have seen over the last couple of days, we are confident that each week the site will get better,” Zients told reporters on a conference call. “It’ll take a lot of work and there are a lot of problems that need to be addressed, but let me be clear: healthcare.gov is fixable.”

Senators Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Dianne Feinstein of Californiawere also among those who signed the letter.

“As long as these substantial technology glitches persist, we are losing valuable time to educate and enroll people in insurance plans,” the senators wrote.

System Testing

Healthcare.gov was intended as the main portal for millions of uninsured people in 36 of the 50 U.S. states to gain coverage from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. The remaining 14 states built and are running their own sites independent of the federal government.

The number of people using the federal website exceeded the government’s expectations, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said at a news conference Friday in Austin, Texas.

“I don’t think anyone knew that the volume would cause the problems it did,”

“I don’t think anyone knew that the volume would cause the problems it did,” she said. “I didn’t realize it wouldn’t be operating optimally before the launch.”

 

The U.S. government did final tests of the website just days before it went public, while similar projects are tested for months, the main contractors told a House panel Thursday.

Data Hub

The site previously had no lead contractor. It was built largely by a unit of Montreal-based CGI Group Inc. The UnitedHealth unit, QSSI, built a service called the “data services hub” that collects information about customers from other federal agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service and Social Security Administration, and feeds it to both the federal website and sites run by states.

“The data hub, we believe, functions relatively smoothly,” Zients said.

QSSI and Oracle Corp. were also responsible for an identity management function used when customers create accounts on the site, according to people familiar with the project. Account creation was an early problem with the site; Zients said that 90% of customers can successfully complete that step now.

QSSI’s Role

In its expanded role, QSSI is “overseeing the entire operation, making sure if one particular issue needs to be addressed, it gets prioritized and addressed right away,” Julie Bataille, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said on the conference call.

“Working with CMS, QSSI will help monitor, assess, prioritize and manage the technical operations of healthcare.gov to enhance the consumer experience,” the company said in a statement sent by email Friday.

It wasn’t clear whether the government officials previously in charge, including Henry Chao, the deputy chief information officer at CMS, would remain as managers.

CMS had been acting as its own “system integrator,” coordinating the work of 55 contractors and supervising testing before the site went live Oct. 1, Bataille said Oct. 24. That decision has been blamed for many of the site’s problems. Bataille didn’t directly answer a question today about whether QSSI would be the system integrator, instead saying the company’s role is “akin to a general contractor.”

Zients, 46, now a health-care entrepreneur, was named in September to replace Gene Sperlingas director of the National Economic Council starting in January, after serving the government in the past as acting director of the Office of Management and Budget. He agreed this week to take a detour to his new job by helping advise the HHS on how to fix its website.

Insurer Data

On the back end, health insurers have complained that information they receive from the government about their new customers is inaccurate or garbled. Zients said that problem “is at the top of the punch list” of issues with the site “and it’ll get punched out as fast as can be done.”

Despite the problems, about 700,000 people had completed insurance applications since the beginning of the month, the government said Thursday. The figure includes health insurance exchanges in 14 states that are running their own websites and report fewer problems. About half of the applications have come from states using the federal site, Bataille said.

Customers in states served by the federal exchange can apply by phone, where 17 government-run call centers have wait times measured in seconds, according to the government. They can also apply on paper using in-person assistance at community organizations and health clinics.

Posted in Interactive Media and tagged , , , .

9 Comments

  1. These difficulties show potential risks we as a country might face implementing an online voting system. First, Healthcare.gov was used as a portal for millions of people in 36 of the 50 U.S. states. The website had issues because the number of people using it exceeded the government’s expectations. If this website is only used for uninsured people of only 36 states, how will an online voting system that is nationally accessible run? People may have trouble accessing the site, casting votes, or their vote may not be counted for due to the mass amount of people casting votes at one time. Healthcare.gov and an online voting system is not a fair comparison because Healthcare.gov has far less people accessing the site compared to an online voting system.

  2. Healthcare.gov was supposed to be a one way ticket for American to easily enroll in the healthcare system. But how often do thing the American Government plans actually go as intended? Within hours of opening the site had a major crash which it has never fully recovered from. Despite slight functionality, the site is still plagued by frozen screens, data loss and lock ups often times halfway through a person’s enrollment. This website is a great model to show what may happen if the U.S. government ever tries to implement online voting. It is so easy for these sites to go down, and the internet is such as hostile and volatile place that I have my doubts a working system will ever be properly established.

  3. i think these problems do have a risk towards online voting. If healthcare.gov was used for one purpose and it had a overload of people that caused it to crash imagine how online voting would be. If you think about it that will have a huge overload on the server because, theres only so many election days and, it’s possible that it could crash really bad or the votes could go unaccounted for. I think the comparison between the two is a little off as well because, less people will use healthcare.gov obviously but, most people are gonna get excited over voting online because, they don’t have to drive anywhere and, when they take advantage of that it will probably crash the site and, it could case election problems all together.

  4. The risks that took place on the health care site shows some risks for an online voting system. All the hang-ups and errors that occurred with people just trying to get a health care plan causes major problems for a voting system. Not everyone in America needs to buy health care and there would be a lot more people trying to vote online. If the health care site would show errors for just a percentage of the American population, just think what would happen if everyone in America tried to use it to vote. The site would be either running very slow or just crash all together. If that would happen, people would be leaving the site really fast because people are more likely to leave the site if it isn’t functioning properly in the first five seconds of it being open.

  5. All of the technical difficulties that healthcare.gov is already experiencing could be a direct reflection of what online voting could turn out like. A large majority of people said that they would trust a government-run online voting system, because of the government involvement. However, healthcare.gov shows us that not even the government can control technology as well as we’d like. It’s hard to make a complete prediction or judgment on what online voting would be like, but I think that the situation with healthcare.gov is an accurate foreshadowing for the outcome of online voting.

  6. I do not think that Healthcare.gov is an accurate comparison to what would happen if online voting was implemented. However, some of the issues raised by the healthcare.gov website would occur if online voting was used. First, there would be alot of traffic to the site since you can only vote one day a year and millions of people will vote that day. Second, more people will hack a voting website than a healthcare website. So you cannot compare them fully. The prepration in which the sites are created is similar. The governement would create this site and since they are having problems with the healthcare site it is fair to say that a voting site could have issues.

  7. Many risks exist definitely with the proposition of expanding voting to the online world, and this incident of massive failure with the release of receiving healthcare online is a perfect example of great disaster. The healthcare program was opened to only 36 of our states, but because the government was not prepared, the millions of people flooded the system, overwhelming the program with issues. In this light, providing a way of online voting is certainly very risky. Mayhem may be avoided, but only to the extent of the system’s overseers’ care and preparation. Only if they push past what they decide is enough, will they be able to safely open an online voting access.

  8. I agree that it is mostly a different case of a national online voting tool compared to the national online healthcare system but they do share similarities that can be startling for a lot of people. As bad as it may sound, voting would considered a higher priority than healthcare and so more action and caution would take place to make a truly secure way to vote online. But as we have seen with healthcare.gov, it is extremely risky and there are so many factors that go into the matter and could go wrong at any time. Although the two would be handled differently I still believe that a national online voting procedure will take years to construct because of the many ways it could go wrong.

  9. They should learn from the mistakes they made with the healthcare online and make sure that doesn’t happen with online voting because if they don’t then the same problems they are facing with online healthcare is more than likely going to happen with the online voting. They only allowed 36 states to this healthcare online and with the amount of people trying to get on caused major problems for them, now imagine them opening it up to all 50 states which they would need to do for voting online, it wouldn’t be good. If the system crashed with online voting it would be horrible, so that’s why I think they should do a test run to make sure it doesn’t crash and improve on the things that didn’t work for the healthcare online and make it happen for the online voting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.