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Healthcare.gov: a management issue

Much of the blame around the Healthcare.gov website—a web-based insurance marketplace established by the 2010 Affordable Healthcare Act—has focused on the fact that the site couldn’t handle the amount of traffic it received. Essentially, it wasn’t scalable. But look beyond the headlines and it becomes clear that there are bigger issues around the website: not only is it not scalable and therefore not accessible to the thousands of Americans hoping to use it, but it also has some user design flaws.

Both of these issues—accessibility and user design—can be attributed to a reported lack of testing. According to The Washington Post in “Full Testing of Healthcare.gov Began Too Late, say Contractors,” testing on the site began a mere two weeks before its hard and firm go-live date of October 1, 2013.

A combination of 47 contractors and multiple agencies were involved in designing and building the website. Between the level of complexity involved in the site, the number of technologists designing and building the site, and the large numbers of “managers” involved in the process, the overall place to put blame is on the management of the project. Someone—or, more likely, many people—along the way did not do or manage the proper level of accessibility and usability testing. And in a recent management shakeup, the official who supervised the launch of the health care site left for the private sector.

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