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Cost of Healthcare.gov: $634 Million — So Far

timothy posted about a year ago | from the oh-c'mon-what's-a-sevenfold-increase-among-friends? dept.

United States 497

First time accepted submitter Saethan writes "Healthcare.gov, the site to be used by people in 36 states to get insurance as part of the Affordable Care Act, has apparently cost the U.S. Government $634 million. Not only is this more than Facebook spent during its first 6 years in operation, it is also over $500 million above what the original estimate was: $93.7 million. Why, in a country with some of the best web development companies in the world, has this website, which is poor quality at best, cost so much?" That $634 million figure comes from this U.S. government budget-tracking system. Given that this system is national rather than for a single city, maybe everyone should just be grateful the contract didn't go to TechnoDyne.

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simple (4, Insightful)

slashmydots (2189826) | about a year ago | (#45090511)

Money != contractor knows what it's doing

Re:simple (5, Insightful)

SirGarlon (845873) | about a year ago | (#45090587)

Or to put it another way, the procurement process selects contractors who thrive in the presence of bureaucracy, not those who actually deliver quality products on time and on budget. This is a well-known and long-standing problem.

Re:simple (4, Insightful)

alen (225700) | about a year ago | (#45090619)

the government has lots of conditions you have to meet if you want a contract and you have to prove that you meet these conditions

preference is given to women, minorities, veterans, small businesses, etc. its not a lowest bidder deal

Re:simple (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45090799)

That's a lot of discrimination.

Re:simple (3, Insightful)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year ago | (#45090813)

The government tit is about the opposite of an efficient operation. You have a nominal bid process, but that's the only throttle on the spending.

Everything else after that is how cleverly you can whine and obfuscate and exaggerate. There is no investor looking for a return. Oddly, some view that as a feature. Fair enough, but don't expect efficiency.

It's not just a little wasteful, but wasteful by a magnitude. There used to be a joke in the farm bureau where a local manager would exclaim, "Oh no! My farmer died!"

Re:simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45090841)

Why not build such solution as open source using brilliant minds who would contribute there time voluntarily to nation building.

Re:simple (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45090885)

So all government contracts go to female African-American small business owners who are veterans? No wonder the government doesn't get anything done, the poor women must be totally overworked.

Re:simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45090923)

It's difficult to jump through all the necessary hoops to confirm that your company meets the requirements (women, minorities, veterans, small businesses).

It's so difficult that only companies with a huge number of staff are capable of doing it. Preferably a company that gives generously to lobbyists and political campaigns.

If you think that the "women, minorities, veterans preference" means anything at all in the real world, please give some examples. Good luck.

Re:simple (4, Informative)

ArhcAngel (247594) | about a year ago | (#45091045)

If you think that the "women, minorities, veterans preference" means anything at all in the real world, please give some examples. Good luck.

I knew a guy who worked for a guy who incorporated a business using his wife as the "owner" and he got numerous subsidies for the business because it was owned by a woman.

Something like that?

Re:simple (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45090947)

As someone working on Government contracts, it IS a lowest bidder deal. Everyone gets in either as an 8A or as a sub to an 8A, and they are totally a race to the bottom on bid amount. Salaries have been stagnant for a decade while costs keep going up, and everyone's trying to undercut everyone else to win the work. It's terrible.

It's more about Education Of Workforce (4, Informative)

Kagato (116051) | about a year ago | (#45091055)

That's a part of it. The largest part in the evaluation is education of work force. Not a lot of rank and file programmers in the US get more than a bachelors degree. Why would they? Unless you're doing work with advanced algorithms or some sort of management there aren't a lot of drivers to have the additional education.

Because of the weight contracts have on education you see a lot of folks with unrelated degrees and foreign diploma mills. That leads to poor final output.

On a campaign level the administration knows how to put together software quickly. But that's not the way the law allows the gov't to operate. Large contractors have been gaming the bidding process for three decades.

Re:simple (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | about a year ago | (#45090853)

Perhaps because they gave the job to a company whose worker pool isn't generally comprised of US citizens, but instead populated with *ahem* engineers formerly employed by the Quickie Mart [liberalamerica.org] ?

Re:simple (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | about a year ago | (#45090867)

And the process is set up so that the person who actually makes the decision is never heald responsable when they go over budget by 1000% or skip town in the middle of a project.

operators reversed. money == ! technically compete (3, Interesting)

raymorris (2726007) | about a year ago | (#45090695)

It seems to me that the larger the bill and the larger the company sending that bill, the lower the competency.

Our three-person company handles web sites serving hundreds of thousands of users per day for a few thousand dollars. We could easily handle a few million users by adding a few more database servers at a cost of around ten thousand.

Re:simple (5, Interesting)

ZahrGnosis (66741) | about a year ago | (#45091037)

Plenty of talented developers and teams get crushed by government red tape, bureaucracy, and the simple inability of most government agencies to manage their contracts. I can't figure out why but there is an enormous attraction for government program managers to micro-manage. Having worked on a handful of very expensive, very large government programs I can tell you that either side can make a project a disaster. But I've been on teams that can roll out a successful commercial project in 3 months that takes 3 years for nearly identical functionality in the public sector (DoD in my case). It's not incompetence at the individual level, either, in my experience; it's something institutional. Too many regulations that cause inflexibility and twisted risk/reward feedback for both costs and personal performance, and the antithesis of an evolution-as-improvement driven culture to match changing development standards.

Answer in two words: (1)

Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) | about a year ago | (#45090533)

"Lowest bidder"

Re:Answer in two words: (2)

Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) | about a year ago | (#45090561)

Should have mentioned that they make their money off of inventing problems after the contract is signed.

Re:Answer in two words: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45090623)

You mean like making it so convoluted and confusing that no one understands how it works. How they programmed with linear time complexity that fails out after a few thousand hits?

Yeah, this company has just started to get paid. They have the feds by the short and curlys now.

Re:Answer in two words: (1)

Vanderhoth (1582661) | about a year ago | (#45090957)

Depends on the contract. We have maintenance due to contractor activity built into most of our contracts. So if the contractor has done something that caused issues, that affects the system after delivery, they're legally responsible for fixing the issues at their expense. Unfortunately they often just weren't competent to do the work in the first place so they just don't have the expertise to fix the issue after the fact anyway.

There are far too many requirements on government that actually often forces them to pick the lowest bidder rather than the best suited to do the work. It's unfortunate because in either case the government gets the blame. Either they spent too much to get a competent contractor, or spent too little and ended up with a bad system, then end up spending more than it would have costs to do it right in the first place. It's really a lose-lose for the gov.

Re:Answer in two words: (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year ago | (#45091051)

"You mean like making it so convoluted and confusing that no one understands how it works. "

Are you talking about the programming or the legislation? The same could be said for both of them.

Re:Answer in two words: (0)

houstonbofh (602064) | about a year ago | (#45090907)

"Lowest bidder"

Who is a minority, woman owned, business in a economic incentive region of a disadvantaged community. And change order fees don't count.

What the hell (1)

dingen (958134) | about a year ago | (#45090535)

Why was 90+ million dollars budgeted for the development of one freaking website?

A deal at twice the price (4, Insightful)

Latent Heat (558884) | about a year ago | (#45090641)

In light of the importance of this project, the thing is cheap at 600 million -- if they can get it to work. A pretty big if, it seems right now.

In other words, the issue right now is not the cost of the thing but whether any amount of money can make it healthy in the required time.

If this thing doesn't get right, "they" might have to wave the fine/penalty/tax to be payed by people who didn't sign up, which is why there is a political fight right now "shutting down the government"?

Re:A deal at twice the price (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45090781)

1.2B to create a website is a bargain to you? Not going into the overall usefulness, waste in a good cause is still waste.
Maybe such waste is the root of why the gov is currently shut down and ACA is just a focal point?

Re:A deal at twice the price (5, Insightful)

Vanderhoth (1582661) | about a year ago | (#45091083)

Way to over simplify website design, there's a completely lack of understanding of the system here. There's a huge amount of infrastructure that has to be put on the back end to make this work (Servers, Database licensing, Maintenance agreements, Security, Data Centers etc...)

For a system of this size, It's expensive. I agree with GP, $600 million is pretty cheap for a system intended to serviced over 100,000,000 people. Less than $6 a user is a pretty good deal.

Re:A deal at twice the price (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | about a year ago | (#45090961)

In light of the importance of this project, the thing is cheap at 600 million

No, it is still overpriced for the job it is doing. Other businesses have built websites of greater complexity, with heavier loads for a lot less money.

Re:A deal at twice the price (4, Interesting)

tylikcat (1578365) | about a year ago | (#45091069)

I'd be curious about this greater complexity assertion. A large part of the project requirement is that it effectively and securely pulls data from a large number of already existing government systems. In my experience, dealing with those kind of externalities is most often neither easy nor cheap... and certainly pretty darned complex. What are you comparing it to?

Re:A deal at twice the price (2, Insightful)

operagost (62405) | about a year ago | (#45090973)

This is why the Democrats in the Senate should just accept the bill waiving the individual mandate for a year. People who really, REALLY need insurance will be the only ones hitting the beleaguered sites, and the Dems will come out smelling like a rose. But they won't, because they are petty and obstinate, and far past caring about their constituents.

Re:A deal at twice the price (2)

tylikcat (1578365) | about a year ago | (#45091095)

Well and that if the only people who buy insurance are the ones who "really, REALLY" need insurance (i.e. those with major health problems) the whole system will go into a death spiral. Rather more serious than pettiness or obstinancy.

Re:What the hell (2)

slashmydots (2189826) | about a year ago | (#45090687)

They could have hired some friends of mine, who are expert web database interface programmers, plus me (I'm fantastic at proper HTML and CSS styling and future-proof coding) for about $500,000. Where $90+ mil came from is beyond me and the $600+ mil should put some people in jail for fraud. Heads better freaking roll over this atrocity, which is probably now covered by health insurance.

Re:What the hell (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year ago | (#45091073)

I'm guessing a big portion of the $90 mil is equipment, infrastructure, salaries, long-term contract commitments and fresh unicorn blood, not just the development cost.

Re:What the hell (1)

mu51c10rd (187182) | about a year ago | (#45090703)

Most of the cost is probably salaries and infrastructure equipment. It appears they should have spent more on developer time.

Re:What the hell (4, Insightful)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about a year ago | (#45090711)

One website, that's expected to have incredibly heavy loads, will handle personal medical and financial information, and must play suitably well with a ton of third-parties' services while being the target of severe attacks from any foreign government or script kiddy who doesn't like it..

Re:What the hell (5, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about a year ago | (#45090857)

One website, that's expected to have incredibly heavy loads[...]

Well here's the rub. In regular operation, the loads aren't going to be incredibly high. They'll be "very" high, but not ridiculously. You could argue that their single largest mistake was trying to do a massive roll out to everyone in the country all at once. They should have rolled out to a small number of people, worked the kinks out and come back in a month with a slightly larger roll out. Rinse and repeat until it's available for everyone and you have some idea what your actual day to day usage numbers are going to be.

Re:What the hell (3, Interesting)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about a year ago | (#45091027)

Agreed. That would likely have worked out much better... but politically, it's impossible. Why does district X get access, but not district Y? That particular random criterion is slightly correlated with this obscure trait, so clearly the politicians in charge are working for or against those people, and don't deserve to be reelected...

Re:What the hell (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about a year ago | (#45090921)

Versus Facebook, Slashdot, Digg, Reddit.

Re:What the hell (4, Insightful)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about a year ago | (#45090985)

All of which had the luxury of a slow rollout, and don't have anywhere near the same amount of damage done if they're compromised.

Re:What the hell (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45090777)

Technically speaking it's supposed to be 50 websites, one for each state and they are all supposed to be developed independently.

I suspect the majority of additional costs were incurred due to the intransigence of some states that hemmed and hawwed until the federal government stepped in and took the responsibility away from them (scope creep much?) in addition to what must have been a royal pain coordinating with every health insurance provider in the country about how and where and when to input their plans' information while also complying with 50 different state regulatory agencies with new regulations.

So yea, in summary I think it's a bit more complicated than a website with profiles and pictures of your friends.

That said, it's a giant boondoggle.

It's called "padding" (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#45090549)

It happens everywhere people can get away with it, just another 600 dollar toilet seat.

Re:It's called "padding" (3, Insightful)

mu51c10rd (187182) | about a year ago | (#45090757)

Not so, It is not "padding" per se. However, this is the general way federal government acquisitions work (at least in the DoD). Staff member gets 3 quotes from vendors and submits to contracting office. Contracting office goes to their GSA-approved buddy. GSA buddy sends purchase request through 3 layers of GSA approved subcontractors. Each layer adds their markup. Last one in the chain ships product to staff member at highly inflated price. Each layer of GSA-approved vendors get their cut for doing nothing (except the last guy who shipped it), and the product cost 3 times as much. Now, contracting officers have nice new job waiting for them upon retirement from civil service, and free cash was distributed to those who can game the GSA system.

Re:It's called "padding" (-1, Redundant)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about a year ago | (#45091017)

I have actually argued for $800 toilet seats at my place of work. Once I was unable to hold out past 2pm, so I used the company facilities--and HALF a roll of toilet paper. Half the roll. Not only did I clog the toilet, but that evening when I showered it was quite painful due to a nasty rash I'd developed from improper hygiene.

My bathroom comes equipped with a shower, which I use when hygiene is required. You wouldn't fist your hands into a pile of cow manure and then wipe off with a paper towel before you prepare dinner, now would you? Why public facilities aren't equipped with the correct hygiene products [amazon.com] is beyond me and, frankly, disturbing as all hell.

They Like to Screw Govt (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45090567)

Yup, my subject line.

Re:They Like to Screw Govt (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45091029)

93 million got a single input batch cobol program.
What ! now you want multi-user access too ? Code rewrite, 200 million more for that.
What ! now you want faster access ? 100 million more for that.
What ! now you want to access via web ? Hang-on front end 200 million more for that.
What ! now you want more than one color text with graphics? 41 million more for that.
Must be great to have a business with both hands in the piggy-bank !

Someone needs practice writing contracts. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45090571)

If I could quote a price and then charge 6 times that amount then I would be rich. They should have signed an agreement that they deliver the website for a price or don't get any money at all. Sounds like someone doesn't know how to write a contract.

Poor vendor management. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45090597)

When you have contracts written that do not include the bulk of the money is only payed when the project is working as expected you will always get shoddy work and contractor companies/people that will make sure they are indispensible forever.

Many companies have this issue.

The other side is many companies/goverment assume a developer manager that has spent years managing product upgrades and patches is capable of designing and delivering a from scratch finished product correctly.

Design by committee is always a fun part of large projects and rarely gets bludgeoned before it wreaks havok.

Re:Poor vendor management. (1)

mschaffer (97223) | about a year ago | (#45090959)

I guess this was voted down because EVERYONE knows that the US Government has NO vendor management.

Rather early to call the site a failure, isn't it? (5, Insightful)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about a year ago | (#45090599)

The site had how many people try to sign up in the first day? If you want to compare it to facebook (a popular metric here no doubt) the number of people who attempted to access and sign up on healthcare.gov in the first day dwarfs the first several years of enrollment at facebook. If they had attempted to build a website to handle the load they faced (which will of course taper off quickly once the first wave of enrollees are signed up and done shopping) we would be bitching that they overbuilt the site because they would have tons of servers sitting mostly idle after the initial surge is done.

We need to wait until it has been up for a while before we go around calling it a failure.

Re:Rather early to call the site a failure, isn't (2)

stewsters (1406737) | about a year ago | (#45090661)

It's called 'The Cloud', you can buy additional instances that first month and get rid of them when you no longer need them.

Re:Rather early to call the site a failure, isn't (5, Insightful)

Enry (630) | about a year ago | (#45090707)

Handling what is potentially HIPAA-covered data? Much harder to do than just working with credit card information.

Re:Rather early to call the site a failure, isn't (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45090827)

Waaat. You can spin up and spin down servers so long as the HIPAA data is removed correctly. I.e. when you spin down a server, you perform a 7-pass wipe. Store the data to RAM/SSD where it can be wiped quickly.

HIPAA data has been in "the cloud" or more accurately, load balanced across server clusters in the past. Calling something an object in the sky doesn't change what it really is

Re:Rather early to call the site a failure, isn't (3, Insightful)

stewsters (1406737) | about a year ago | (#45090829)

That's true, and a very good point. I don't work with HIPAA-covered data, but could they use something like amazon's government cloud [amazon.com] ?

Re:Rather early to call the site a failure, isn't (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45090933)

Re:Rather early to call the site a failure, isn't (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45090693)

When a site loads 50+ .js files after you click an 'Apply' button, something is wrong with the design.

Re:Rather early to call the site a failure, isn't (0, Flamebait)

Dunbal (464142) | about a year ago | (#45090697)

Your reply smacks of apologism. Awwwww POOOR THEM their site wasn't designed to handle that load.... No, this is not a $100M site that was badly designed and needed $500M more to cope with an unusual load problem, no, this is a $600M site that is still going to need even more money to work as intended. For $600M you can buy companies that are used to working with huge traffic loads. Certainly you can get consulting from companies like say Blizzard, Facebook, Google, Amazon, hell even CCP (makers of EVE Online, famous for working with large simultaneous loads on a single server) for a fraction of the cost. At the end of the day you'd have a rock solid site for your money on launch day built on knowledge that has already been acquired by leaders in the field. No, now you have $600M spent and you STILL don't have a website that works. This amounts to treason you know. Heads used to get chopped off for this kind of thing, back when there were real leaders.

Re:Rather early to call the site a failure, isn't (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45090863)

Facebook, Google, Amazon, CCP are not in the business of government contracting. I don't think they are even in the business of subcontracting. I'm sure they would like to have been part of the rollout, but then there's the whole conflict of interest/ethics thing.

This just goes to show that either (a) a good chunk of that $600M went somewhere other than talent or (b) there is not enough available talent in the US. Judging from my days in government contracting, I'm going with (a). The person who originally designed the system may have been brilliant and then was suckered off by Facebook to work on instagram which left them scrambling for a replacement who finished the design but not without botching the job in the process.

Re:Rather early to call the site a failure, isn't (2, Insightful)

Flozzin (626330) | about a year ago | (#45090709)

Almost 7 times over budget. And it didn't handle the load placed on it. 8 days later and it's still having problems. And you want to defend it? Oh it's ok that it's a huge steaming pile of crap because why exactly? Do you work at CGI Federal? I could see if it came in on budget. But even then, they obviously did not do any research into how many people would be interested in the site.

Re:Rather early to call the site a failure, isn't (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45090761)

As was discussed last week [slashdot.org] , the site has terrible design flaws.

Re:Rather early to call the site a failure, isn't (2)

sudnshok (136477) | about a year ago | (#45090769)

Except that there are services nowadays SPECIFICALLY built for this type of scaling, like AWS. You can spin up extra servers for temporary high traffic - especially high traffic that was absolutely foreseen. Funny how Amazon's website can handle the traffic on black Friday just fine.

Sorry, but I've been doing web development for 15 years and have worked on large projects. I can't see the cost for this project being more than $20-30M for up-front development (that includes planning, documentation, meetings, coding and testing - all without outsourcing) and at most $20-30M per year for software licensing, hosting, bandwidth and maintenance. And I'm talking top-dollar.

For $634M, they could have gone down the wrong path (the one you mention) and committed to long term-contracts for those unnecessary idle servers and still have $300M leftover.

Re:Rather early to call the site a failure, isn't (2)

mu51c10rd (187182) | about a year ago | (#45090805)

I have insurance through my employer and they have no intentions of cancelling. That said, I was curious about plans and premiums and chose to check it out. It has now been a week, and I have only been able to get to the Contact Infomation screen before i get the Unknown Error message. It took me 3 days to create an account alone without error. I have tried IE, Chrome, and finally caved into trying Firefox as well...and the site problems are not browser-related. They are coding-related. As of today, I am still unable to see actual plans or premiums...and my time is too precious to spend on the phone when there is a website that is supposed to work. I can also say, load is not the problem either. The first day or two had massive wait times on the site, now, I get in fairly quickly...only to see Unknown Error.

Re:Rather early to call the site a failure, isn't (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45090991)

It's just another prime example of how the Govt screws up almost everything it touches. I'm sure Govt administered healthcare will be MUCH better....

Re:Rather early to call the site a failure, isn't (1)

Are You Kidding (1734126) | about a year ago | (#45090917)

It is all too easy to join the mob, shout invectives at the speaker and drown out reasoned debate. This post has it exactly right. We don't know yet whether the 36 state system simply underestimated the traffic, has some sloppy coding - which will be corrected quickly, or has fatally flawed architecture that cannot be easily corrected. Did they use Top Down Design, Bottom Up Design, or perhaps, as seems more likely, the designers are advocates for the Agile Software Manifesto. By January, we will know a great deal more about what they did, what went right and what went wrong. The are important lessons here for anyone who writes software, and it is too early to make valid conclusions until the details are made public.

Re:Rather early to call the site a failure, isn't (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45090951)

"We need to wait until it has been up for awhile.."

Umm, not sure if you've been reading the news. We are at day 10 and it still isn't "up" in any useful way (there are sites doing daily login/account creation attempts with screenshots, detailed analysis, etc.). If you had $600m and 3 years to create a site that will knowingly have to handle *massive* load during a specific period of time, you then choose *design* principles that accommodate that known requirement. Yes, if we had forced college students to write a country-wide healthcare exchange in a weekend for minimum wage, you are right.. we should give it time. Who knows how much pressure those poor kids were under? 3 years, $600+ million dollars. What could the best technology companies in the US do with that investment and time?

failure...certainly (1)

mschaffer (97223) | about a year ago | (#45091001)

Obama ran on the platform that something needed to be done about the millions of people that had no healthcare.
I guess the only surprising thing is that only a million people tried to sign up. With all of the grass-roots programs encouraging people to sign up, with all of the hype, they should have been expecting traffic of DDOS proportions.

Job$! (1)

OffTheLip (636691) | about a year ago | (#45090603)

I see opportunity here. Once this beast is _somewhat_ operational it will need to be fed and cared for. That responsibility, like most US government functions, will fall to US citizens. If a security clearance is required even better. Lemons from lemonade I say.

Re:Job$! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45090701)

Absolutely. I wonder if HIPAA controls apply/

Badly (0)

Spazmania (174582) | about a year ago | (#45090627)

Because everything the government does it does badly. That's the nature of government. If you want "good" government, you whittle it down to just those activities which history has shown aren't credibly done outside government -- military, justice system (police and courts), funding basic scientific research (not technology research!), and so on.

Re:Badly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45090731)

Which article of the Constitution specifically authorizes the Federal government to fund basic scientific research?

Re:Badly (4, Insightful)

Delusion_ (56114) | about a year ago | (#45091105)

As opposed to the health insurance industry, which is a billion dollar a year boondoggle whose only functions are to determine who gets billed for what, and to deny benefits in order to increase "shareholder value".

Even fairly incompetent governments around the world have been shown to be able to manage a single-payer system without it becoming such a drain on the GDP.

An Overarching Problem (-1, Redundant)

GlennC (96879) | about a year ago | (#45090635)

The real problem is that NOBODY, in ANY branch of the U.S. government, gives a shit about anything other than enriching themselves.

I cordially invite ANY evidence to the contrary.

Re:An Overarching Problem (4, Insightful)

Enry (630) | about a year ago | (#45090725)

Active duty military who get paid very little to defend the country, and VA staff.

Re:An Overarching Problem (2)

Deflagro (187160) | about a year ago | (#45091109)

Every military person I've known have done it for the free college money they give out. The military basically buys service with tax dollars. These kids don't generally go die for free and if they do it's because they were brainwashed into nationalistic American exceptionalism.

Working at the VA is a huge credit on anyone's resume, especially in the Neurology/Medical sciences field. It's hard to get in there but a huge bonus if you can claim that experience.

People are inherently selfish but I will admit there are a small percentage that do things because they mean well and desire nothing in return. A dying breed for sure.

Re:An Overarching Problem (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45090913)

The real problem is that NOBODY, in ANY branch of the U.S. government, gives a shit about anything other than enriching themselves.

I cordially invite ANY evidence to the contrary.

If you are talking about politicians I'll agree with you. However if you are talking about government employees I have to tel you to taking a flying F@&K, as you have no idea what you are talking about. I am working without pay at this time. I don't know when I will be paid thanks to the shutdown, but that hasn't stopped me from doing my job.

If you followed the money closely... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45090647)

...you'd probably find a neat arrangement of politically affiliated 'sub-contractors' who then sub-contracted parts of the system off to real IT companies for a fraction of what they got.

You need to grease the wheels, even if you're Barack Obama.

Complete nonsense (5, Insightful)

ardmhacha (192482) | about a year ago | (#45090649)

This figure is not just for building a website.

It is for all spending with CGI Federal over the time that they have been doing business with the Federal government, including payments from fiscal years before Obamacare was even passed.

The figure is now being regurgitated by various right wing websites without anything that even passes for thinking.

And also now slashdot, which is disappointing.

Re:Complete nonsense (4, Insightful)

retech (1228598) | about a year ago | (#45090819)

Slashdot stopped covering fact and started the corporate fear mongering the minute it got sold. Even if the articles aren't padded or misdirections by corporate shills, there's no one in charge anymore (at least not with a calm objective eye). So any hashtaggable buzzword, kneejerk reaction gets sent right to the top.

Car analogy. Reference Katrina. Site other blogs. Media fear words. Kittens.

Re:Complete nonsense (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45090889)

Shh, don't get in the way of the bashing, they're too busy pushing their narrative to let actual facts get in the way.

Truth is less important than truthiness. How it feels to be true is much more important.

Re:Complete nonsense (1)

operagost (62405) | about a year ago | (#45091025)

What right wing sites, partisan?

Not true - that is a total for _all_ contracts (5, Insightful)

mynameismonkey (658515) | about a year ago | (#45090667)

That figure covers 114 separate contracts (see http://usaspending.gov/explore?tab=By+Prime+Awardee&fiscal_year=all&idvpiid=HHSM500200700015I&typeofview=transactions [usaspending.gov] ) Not to suggest that it still wasn't overly expensive, but consider the fact that the system is a national transaction application that has to dip into numerous other federal data sources - and has a mission criticality above and beyond facebook. Still, many of us could have done it better and cheaper, but then again very few of us would actually enjoy working for the federal government and conducting our business the way any federal contractor is required to.

Re:Not true - that is a total for _all_ contracts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45090903)

Actually, at this point in my career working only 35 - 40 hours a week with all holidays off looks pretty good. As do perks like not having to worry if the crap you deploy holds up under real-world conditions, so long as you can hit your deliverable dates. Seriously. The problems these sites are having are inexcusable and smack of rank incompetence, almost certainly at the executive management level (because I still refuse to believe that any line sysadmin would actually run something so fragile unless compelled by their PHBs -- for God's sake, hasn't anyone ever heard of Rackspace?).

What of the mission? (2)

mi (197448) | about a year ago | (#45090937)

a national transaction application that has to dip into numerous other federal data sources

This statement alone is scarier, than whatever was leaked by Mr. Snowden. Surprisingly, the President's cheerleaders — normally so suspect of government's invasions into our privacy — ignore this implication.

has a mission criticality above and beyond facebook.

Gravity of the mission, whatever it is, has little to do with the cost of implementation. First step on the Moon was a gravely important mission, but it was easy for Neil Armstrong to do it...

very few of us would actually enjoy working for the federal government and conducting our business the way any federal contractor

Yet another argument for letting the government do as little as at all possible — rather than explode its size as the Administration is doing.

Re:Not true - that is a total for _all_ contracts (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45091005)

>Still, many of us could have done it better and cheaper

Are you so sure about that? You know it involved a team, not an individual. Also, what do you do when your client changes specs mid stream, etc. Your hubris might be blinding your judgement. Instead of confidently saying, "I could have done better," maybe a reasonably competent person would say, "I don't know the details enough to not spew bullshit trying to make myself look smart."

Re:Not true - that is a total for _all_ contracts (1)

slonik (108174) | about a year ago | (#45091061)

That figure covers 114 separate contracts (see http://usaspending.gov/explore?tab=By+Prime+Awardee&fiscal_year=all&idvpiid=HHSM500200700015I&typeofview=transactions [usaspending.gov] )

All these contracts are with the same "HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, DEPARTMENT". It seems like they itemized the whole work as a serious of smaller contracts. With the general governmental corruption and inefficiency it is quite believable that they could waste half a G$ on a single IT system.

HITECH act NOT Affordable Care. (4, Insightful)

Hozza (1073224) | about a year ago | (#45090679)

The solicitation number linked to actually refers to the HITECH act, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, to quote health it.gov:

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act seeks to improve American health care delivery and patient care through an unprecedented investment in Health IT (HIT).

And it certainly sound like they've achieved an unprecedented investment at least.

for a number of reasons. (2)

nimbius (983462) | about a year ago | (#45090681)

Facebook as a privately held corporation for its first six years can cherrypick the cost of its infrastructure as it sees fit. cheap and powerful infrastructure is always a very warm prospect for a market that may be keen to see returns from a soon-to-be public company.
Facebook doesnt take into account the fact that its final cost is spread across the backs of millions of FLOSS developers its never known, whereas the US government is literally developing a system, an open market, that has never existed outside of a single state in its union. The government also doesnt attract facebook-level talent and as such is forced to contend with best practices as it outsources development to well-established industry players. the government began much larger and more fiscally sound than Facebook in its first year, so the purse strings are of course looser.

you're comparing a private company with independent autonomy in the software lifecycle to a government agency beset with lobbyists and average, but not astounding talent. in some cases edicts instituted by governing bodies of the program which may mandate outsourcing to specific vendors regardless of cost; this is how politics works in both private and public sectors. im also certain the signup rate for facebook in its first six years is dwarfed by the healthcare site in its first six hours, which may help explain some of the cost of the program overall. keep in mind the estimate of ~90 million may have been an intentional underestimate as the reform had to be sold to a congress that would rather see the president dead than re-elected.

"Fat Cat" system (1)

js3 (319268) | about a year ago | (#45090713)

Everything done by the government costs 3-4x more because government contracts are a way to grease the hands of people who favors are owed to

Because. Government Job. (1)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | about a year ago | (#45090717)

The US government is not known to be thrifty when it comes to spending. Big guns, deep pockets, no fucks given.

misappropriation? (2)

sobolwolf (1084585) | about a year ago | (#45090719)

I would like to know if there are any connections between contractors and those awarding the contracts - ie Family ties, business connections, etc... in this day and age there is absolutely no way a website should cost this much. I team of around 20 proficient Web professionals should be able to make almost anything in around 1-2 years max, with a max cost no more than 10 million. Half a billion? Follow the money, this is at best gross negligence on the part of those awarding the contracts, at worst misappropriation.

And yet... (1)

prisoner-of-enigma (535770) | about a year ago | (#45090729)

...these are the same assclowns everyone wants to trust their healthcare insurance to when they claim they'll cover more conditions, add in pre-existing conditions, add tens of millions of people to the list of insured, won't hire any new doctors, quality of service will go up, and prices will go down? Yeah, right. And Social Security will still be solvent by the time I reach retirement age.

It's time we quit buying the bridges these idiots keep selling us.

It has 100x more requirements than Facebook (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45090743)

It's a site that caters for a few hundred million people, on day 1, is bound by a lot more legislature, has a lot more requirements than Facebook, and can't get anything wrong. Requirements aren't just visible functionality on the website. It has to integrate with legacy systems on the back-end, which are different for every state, and integrate and abide by those states legistlature... all of which Facebook just doesn't have to care about.

Facebook lets you a private non friends status we don't care, but if everyone could see someone else's medical records for the day, suing the government would cost a lot more.

And quality assurance costs a fortune in these scenarios. Quality is multi dimensional, functionality, user experience, privacy, security, stability, maintainability, penetrability, *ility... they matter when it's your own personal medical records.

Raise the debt ceiling and it will get fixed... (0)

PseudoCoder (1642383) | about a year ago | (#45090763)

Everything the government does... (0)

mi (197448) | about a year ago | (#45090789)

Everything the government does, it does poorly. This is not a partisan statement — this is a sad fact, which everyone agrees with even if they may attempt to hide the agreement, because they don't like the implications.

Some things can only be done by the government — like the court-system and other law-enforcement (although the actual police could be contractors, they ought to report to and be paid by the government), the military...

But everything else — and I do mean everything: manufacturing, services, charities — ought to be privately-run by competing entities. Because switching from Coca-Cola to Pepsi (or Poland Spring) is much easier, than recalling an elected official.

Re:Everything the government does... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45090887)

But the government itself did not make the website. The website development was contracted out to a PRIVATE company...

Several reasons (4, Informative)

Salgak1 (20136) | about a year ago | (#45090809)

One: Schedule Fail. Compounded by late award of the contracts to develop/influence:

Contracts Awarded Dec 2011 [wsj.com]

Two: massive requirements base to develop specification for development and implementation: The PPACA was 1800+ pages, and the associated regulations are 10,000+ pages, and are STILL changing. Can't develop without a spec and design, with big parts of requirements still changing.

Three: inadequate testing. The above-referenced link states that security testing BEGAN in August 2013, less than two months before rollout. There's no mention of load testing

Four: Integration issues. The Obamacare Exchange system combines data from numerous agencies and systems, and integrating between them is always a difficult task

Five: Identity-management. This is in parallel to Integration, somehow all identities need to be federated into a single overarching system.

Twenty-three months, even with a top-flight team, would simply not be enough to do this: this is a 5-7 year job. . .

Could've just hired FB (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45090835)

Hire Facebook or Google to do it. Of course, now that Obama has spent over $600 million, he will double down on a bad bet like he always does. No wonder he wants to keep borrowing money and taxing the shit out of the population.

Obama versus Bush healthcare rollout (3, Informative)

cold fjord (826450) | about a year ago | (#45090879)

Exchange launch turns into inexcusable mess: Our view [usatoday.com]

Park said the administration expected 50,000 to 60,000 simultaneous users. It got 250,000. Compare that with the similarly rocky debut seven years ago of exchanges to obtain Medicare drug coverage. The Bush administration projected 20,000 simultaneous users and built capacity for 150,000.

That's the difference between competence and incompetence.

The too-much-demand excuse also is less than the full story. In addition to grossly underestimating demand, the administration and its contractors seem to have made mistakes in building the websites. The system for verifying consumer identity has had persistent problems, as have pull-down menus.

Nor were problems confined to the 36 state health exchanges run by the federal government. Sites run by 14 states and Washington, D.C., bogged down because they have to refer to federal databases to verify consumers' identity.

Investment != Expenditures (2)

ahpeterson (97193) | about a year ago | (#45090895)

The comparison to Facebook is complete BS.

Even though (as somebody already pointed out) the $634m number doesn't represent just Healthcare.gov, the comparison to Facebook is completely fallacious. Facebook has money coming in other than just their investments; the investment money that is referenced in the Crunchbase page is in addition to any other income that they had. In other words, Facebook spent way more than $634m in that period of time.

Lazy journalism at its best.

On this page: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45090901)

Democrapsocialists blindly defending their elected leader's laws and policies whilst wasting their own labor (tax dollars in exchange for labor) just because they can and proving they can't do a damn thing right, nor are intelligent, nor are any value to this country.

Get over your god damn egos and wake up to the blatant destruction of our country by believing in the democrapsocialist cult idealogies that have never worked, will never work, and are destroying us by design.

Comparison to Facebook a teensy bit misleading (4, Informative)

TimHunter (174406) | about a year ago | (#45090949)

Here's a nice overview of just what's going on with the ACA website. The chart from Xerox illustrates why the system is a just a teensy bit more complicated than Facebook. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2013/10/09/heres-everything-you-need-to-know-about-obamacares-error-plagued-web-sites/ [washingtonpost.com]

err on the side of math (1)

cosmin_c (3381765) | about a year ago | (#45090977)

How is 634 = 500+93.7? Whilst I do agree to some extent to journalistic exaggeration, there is a good 40.3m chunk missing.

Pure Beuaracracy (3, Insightful)

onyxruby (118189) | about a year ago | (#45091085)

This is pure bureaucratic inefficiency work at it's finest. Some examples if this is like a typical Federal contract would include things like:

Changing specs on what your asking for multiple times throughout. You start building to one spec and part way through things change to another spec requiring expensive redesigns. Case studies have been written and college courses taught about the sheer number of design changes on why certain federal programs that have run billions of dollars over.

Too many chiefs calling the shots which requires too many chiefs answering for the shots being called. For political purposes you can have people from any number of agencies and or divisions within an agency all trying to design the thing. Almost none of them have a clue what their doing, but they'll pretend to be a designer just because they can. The resulting quagmire can cause committee upon committee just to get things approved at any given level and in case you missed someone that feels overlooked they can bring the whole thing to a grinding halt just to remind everyone not to overlook their office.

If your the Federal Government your allowed, in fact your - required - to use racism and sexism when bidding things out. Anyone that is involved with government contracts is well aware of this and as a result contractors that meet the discrimination guidelines get selected over those that don't even when they cost significantly more. When your guaranteed to get a job even when your charging more money, do you think someone is going charge the market rate or their chosen rate?

Politics, don't forget about politics as the new administration gets in and typically wants to kills anything that was a signature of the old. If you think life is difficult with inter office politics, imagine having powerful senators and governors doing everything they can to run interference on your project.

This is only a small smidgen of reasons why these things run costs that are sky high as they are and part of the reasons why you see Republicans want to cut government spending. They look at something like this and say, the private sector would do this in a fourth the time for a fourth the cost (not taking sides, just explaining their logic).

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