Dang: Now the ObamaCare data center has crashed too

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Published by: Dan Calabrese on Monday October 28th, 2013

Full-scale implosion.

On the one hand, you can say this one’s not the administration’s fault because Verizon operates the data center. The connectivity issue that caused the system to shut down occurred early on Sunday, and as of now no one knows when it will be back online. In the meantime, no one can shop or make any purchases.

On the other hand – and I say this just from personal experience as a Verizon customer – I have never known Verizon service to be unreliable. I switched over last year from Sprint, which was a cacophony of unreliability, and Verizon has been unfailingly dependable. Now granted, my phone and data service is a very different animal from what Verizon is supposed to be doing for the federal government, but this is not some fly-by-night company run by Michelle Obama’s pal. It’s Verizon.

And that leads me to suspect that, as has so often been the case here, contractors are struggling to fulfill the wishes of a government that insisted for political purposes on designing a square peg to fit into a round hole.


The outage that started in the early hours of Sunday caused the data center to lose network connectivity with the federal government's data services hub, an electronic traffic roundabout that links the online health insurance marketplaces with numerous federal agencies and can verify people's identity, citizenship, and other facts.

Without the hub, consumers are unable to apply online for coverage or determine their eligibility for federal subsidies to help pay for insurance premiums. On Saturday, Sebelius praised the hub's ability to perform complex calculations in quick time as an example of a successful segment of the system.

HHS spokeswoman Joanne Peters said Sebelius spoke with Verizon's chief executive officer on Sunday afternoon to discuss the situation: "They committed to fixing the problem as soon as possible."

The outage was affecting enrollment in all 50 states, as well as Terremark customers not connected with the marketplaces, according to the HHS spokeswoman. She said the data center's network connectivity went down during planned maintenance to replace a failed networking component.

Is anything going right here? The web site doesn’t work. The data center can’t stay online. More people are losing insurance than signing up for it. And because of the mandates imposed on insurers in the law, you can’t delay the individual mandate without potentially tanking the entire health insurance industry.

If you want to find the root cause of this disaster, you’d be wise to go back to the process of passing the law in the first place. Back in 2009-2010, Democrats had a short window of a few months – after Al Franken was finally seated and before Ted Kennedy died – when they had a filibuster-proof 60-seat majority in the Senate. It was an opportunity for them to go hog wild passing the government health care takeover they’d been dreaming about for generations.

The emphasis was on what was politically possible, not on what was technically or operationally possible. Hey, we’ll set up “exchanges” and everyone can buy online. Put it in the bill and pass it. Let the technical people figure out how to do it. A bunch of politicians voting for a bill had no idea if this could be done, or how expensive it would be, or whether it would actually work.

The same was true with other aspects of the bill. They said it would lower everyone’s premiums. It’s done the opposite. They said if you liked your plan, you could keep your plan. You can’t. They’re in denial about the impact it’s having on jobs. They refuse to believe that the Independent Payment Advisory Board will ration health care and make decisions that end some people’s lives. Hey, they didn’t put that in the bill!

No. They didn’t put a fiasco of a web site in the bill either. But here it is. Just because the government passes a law saying things must happen in a certain way doesn’t mean they will. The White House is right when it says ObamaCare is more than just a web site. This fiasco is just getting started.

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