It’s December 1. Normally that wouldn’t mean much, except for a turn of the calendar page. This year, however, it’s a bit different, because it’s been established as the date by which the healthcare.gov website is supposed to be operating at some reasonable level of functionality.
It’s not entirely clear what standard of performance will be the measuring stick; if you listen to different members of the Obama Administration, the goals seem to be a bit of a moving target. But back when the healthcare.gov website was a crashing, frozen embarrassment, the Administration set November 30 as the deadline. Now we can expect the website to be the most scrutinized, evaluated website in the history of computers. There will be a huge spike in usage today, caused in large part by hordes of journalists and bloggers and curious folks who just want to see what the fuss is all about. You have to wonder — how many of the people on the website are actually using it for its intended purpose of trying to shop for health insurance, rather than messing around trying to see what causes an error message?
We can expect lots of stories about the website over the next few days, from all points along the political spectrum. Progressives will rave about how much the website has improved, and conservatives will focus on its remaining failures. The website story will be treated like a horse race, with winners and losers. In the meantime, average Americans everywhere should be asking how this happened, and why we are spending so much money to fix a website that clearly shouldn’t have been so poorly designed at the outset. On that latter point, the New York Times has an interesting piece about how the failure happened and how the Obama Administration reacted. It’s not an attractive story.