Case Study a Shaky Start for Healthcare.Gov Please see attached documents for full explanation A Shaky Start for The Patient Protection and

Case Study a Shaky Start for Healthcare.Gov Please see attached documents for full explanation A Shaky Start for
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare, is considered
the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s legacy. Essential to Obama’s health care reform
plan is, a health insurance exchange website that facilitates the sale of private
health insurance plans to U.S. residents, assists people eligible to sign up for Medicaid, and has a
separate marketplace for small businesses.
The site allows users to compare prices on health insurance plans in their states, to enroll
in a plan they choose, and to find out whether they qualify for government health care subsidies.
Users must sign up and create their own specific account first, providing some personal information, to receive detailed information about available health care plans in their area. was launched on October 1, 2013, as promised, but visitors quickly encountered numerous technical problems. Software that assigned digital identities to enrollees and
ensured that they saw only their own personal data was overwhelmed. Customers encountered
cryptic error messages and could not log on to create accounts. Many users received quotes that
were incorrect because the feature used prices based on just two age groups. It was estimated that
only 1 percent of interested consumers were able to enroll through the site for the first week of
operations, and many applications sent to insurers contained erroneous information. Thousands
of enrollees for—at least one in five at the height of the problems—received
inaccurate assignments to Medicaid or to private health plans. Some people were wrongly denied
Insurers received enrollment files from the federal exchange that were incomplete or inaccurate, as many as one in ten. The information includes who is enrolling and what subsidies
they may receive. Some insurers reported being deluged with phone calls from people who believed they had signed up for a particular health plan, only to find that the company had no record of the enrollment. Enrollment problems with insurers persisted into November.
U.S. chief technology officer Todd Park stated on October 6
that’s glitches were caused by an unexpectedly high volume of users. Between
50,000 and 60,000 had been expected, but the site had to handle 250,000 simultaneous users.
More than 8.1 million people visited between October 1, 2013, and October 4,
White House officials later admitted that’s problems were not just
caused by high traffic volume but also by software and system design issues. Stress tests performed by contractors a day before the launch date revealed that the site slowed substantially
with only 1100 simultaneous users, far fewer than the 50,000 to 60,000 that were anticipated.
Technical experts found out that the site was riddled with hardware and software defects,
amounting to more than 600 items that needed to be fixed.
A major contributor to these problems was the part of the system’s design that required
users to create individual accounts before shopping for health insurance. This meant that before
users could shop for coverage, they must input personal data that would be exchanged among
separate computer systems built or run by multiple vendors, including CGI Group, developer
of, Quality Software Services, and credit-checker Experian PLC. If any part of
this web of systems failed to work properly, users would be blocked from entering the exchange
marketplace. A bottleneck had been created where these systems interacted with a software component called Oracle Identity Manager supplied by Oracle Corporation that was embedded in the
government’s identity-checking system. This problem might have been averted if the system allowed users to browse plans without first going through the complex registration process.
Problems, including pull-down menus that only worked intermittently and excruciatingly
long wait times, persisted into the third week of operations. For some weeks in October, the site
was down 60 percent of the time.
What happened to is another example of IT project management gone
awry, which often happens with large technology projects, especially those for the U.S. federal
government. There was no single leader overseeing the implementation. The
U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) coordinated the development effort.
However, CMS had a siloed management structure, and no single unit was designated to take
charge of the entire project.
CMS parceled out the work for building and implementing the system to
a number of outside contractors. The front end of the website (including the user interface) was
developed by the start-up Development Seed. The back end (where all the heavy-duty processing
of enrollment data and transactions with insurers takes place) was contracted to CGI Federal, a
subsidiary of the Canadian multinational CGI Group, which received $231 million for the project. CGI then subcontracted much of its work to other companies. This is common in large government projects. Functions relating to digital identity authentication were contracted to Experian, the global information services company noted for its credit-checking expertise.
CMS set deadlines for the contractors, who were expected to attend meetings to hammer
out the details of the specifications for the website, but the computer specialists skipped some of
those sessions. Contractors for different parts of the system barely communicated with each
Some IT experts also criticized CMS’s decision to use database software from a company
called MarkLogic, which handles data management differently from more mainstream database
management systems of companies such as IBM and Oracle. Work proceeded more slowly because so few people were familiar with MarkLogic, and MarkLogic continued to perform below
expectations after the website was launched.
The website had not been thoroughly tested before it went live, so a number of software
and hardware defects had not been detected. Testing of the system by insurers had been scheduled for July but didn’t begin until the third week in September. CMS was responsible for usertesting the system during the final weeks.
Technology experts also faulted’s developers for trying to go live with
all parts of a large and very complex system all at once. It would have been better to roll out system functions gradually. CGI believed that a full-function with all the anticipated bells and whistles was an unrealistic target. Given the time required to complete and test
the software, it was impossible to launch a full-function exchange by October 1, but government
officials insisted that October 1 was not negotiable and had become impatient with CGI’s pattern
of excuses for missed deadlines. The Obama administration kept on modifying regulations and
policies until summer 2013, which meant that contractors had to deal with changing requirements.
The enrollment system is very complex. It connects to other federal
computer networks, including the Social Security Administration (SSA), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Veterans Affairs (VA), Office of Personnel Management, and the Peace Corps. It has
to verify a considerable amount of personal information, including income and immigration status.
Vital components were never secured. There was insufficient access to a data center to
prevent the website from crashing. No backup system for a website crash was created. The interaction between the data center where the information is stored and the system was so poorly configured that it had to be redesigned.
CMS had several warnings between March and July that the project was going off-track
but didn’t seek deep White House involvement or change the leadership structure, according to
officials, congressional aides, and emails from the period. An administration report noted that inadequate management oversight and coordination among technical teams prevented real-time decision making and efficient responses to address the issues with the site.
The consulting firm McKinsey & Co. detailed the project’s potential risks in a presentation between March 28 and April 8 to the top CMS official, Marilyn Tavenner, to Health and
Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and to White House Chief Technology Officer
Todd Park. McKinsey’s report anticipated many of the site’s pitfalls and urged the administration
to name a single project leader to streamline decision-making. It also emphasized the importance
of White House support for CMS to meet the October 1 launch date. Nevertheless, according to
documents from the period and officials, the White House’s minimal involvement in the project’s details didn’t change after the McKinsey report.
The White House assembled experts from government and industry who worked frantically to fix the system. The Obama administration appointed contractor Quality Software Services Inc. (QSSI) to coordinate the work involved in fixing the website. QSSI had worked earlier
on the website’s back-end. In January 2014, Accenture replaced CGI Group as the website’s lead
Work on fixing the website continued through October and November 2013, and the
website appeared to be working more smoothly. For the vast majority of users, was working more than 90 percent of the time. Response time (the time required
for a web page to load) was reduced from eight seconds to less than one. The incidence of error
messages preventing people from using the site went from 6 percent down to .75 percent, but by
November 30, only 137,000 people had signed up for private health insurance, far fewer than the
government had forecast.’s problems also forced the Obama administration to
delay by one year an online exchange for small business.
Reuters reported in mid-October 2013 that the total cost of building using contractors had tripled from an initial estimate of $93.7 million to about $292 million. Overall cost for building the website reached $500 million by October 2013. As of February 2014, the
government had committed to paying $800 million for contracts for the site, and the full amount
spent to date is still unknown.
By early 2014, was working much better but was not problem-free.
Then went down shortly after midnight March 30, 2014, and remained unusable until a day later. Some of the hundreds of thousands of Americans trying to sign up for health
care at the last minute of the enrollment period were unable to do so. Nevertheless, 8 million
people signed up for health care that year.
Kathleen Sebelius resigned as Secretary for Health and Human Services on April 10,
2014, replaced by Sylvia Mathews Burwell on June 9 of that year. On July 30, 2014, the U.S.
Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a nonpartisan study finding that
the website was developed without effective planning or oversight practices.
These findings were supported by another report issued by the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services in January 2015. The Inspector General’s investigation
found that the federal government failed to probe fully the past performance of CGI before
awarding its contract and had neglected to put a cap on contractor billings.
After a bumpy debut, appeared in 2015 to be running smoothly. There
have been a few minor, short-lived technical glitches. The Obama administration was able to
boast that enrollment of 11 million people in health care plans for 2015 surpassed the president’s
Sources: Louise Radnofsky, “Poor Oversight, Work Marred Health Care Site’s
Launch,” Wall Street Journal, January 20, 2015; Alex Barinka,“ Bug Plagues
Obamacare Just before Deadline,” Bloomberg, February 14, 2015; Amy Nordrum,
“Obama’s Website Isn’t Consumer-Friendly Enough, Experts Say,” International Business Times, February 18, 2015; Spencer E. Ante and Louise Radnofsky, “New Technical Woes Hobble Health-Insurance Sign-Ups at Zero Hour,” Wall Street Journal, March 31,
2014; “ Was Supposed to Work and How It Didn’t,” New York Times, December 2, 2013; Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Michael D. Shear, “Inside the Race to Rescue a
Health Care Site, and Obama,” New York Times, November 30, 2013; Gautham Nagesh,
“Health Website Problems Weren’t Flagged in Time,” Wall Street Journal, December 2, 2013;
Christopher Weaver and Louise Radnofsky, “’s Flaws Found, Fixes Eyed,” Wall
Street Journal, October 10, 2013, and “Federal Health Site Stymied by Lack of Direction,” Wall
Street Journal, October 28, 2013; and Eric Lipton, Jan Austen, and Sharon LaFraniere, “Tension and Flaws before Health Website Crash,” New York Times, November 22, 2013.
Case Study Questions
Why was the project so important?
Evaluate the key risk factors in this project.
Classify and describe the problems this project encountered. What people,
organization, and technology factors were responsible for these problems?
What were the economic, political, and social impacts
of’s botched implementation?
Describe the steps that should have been taken to prevent a negative outcome in this project.
Information Systems for Managers
Assignment: Case Study 4 (75 points)
Read the case study “A Shaky Start for” (this can be found as an attachment to the case study in
Week 12 within Moodle).
The Case Study Review should include (2 to 3 pages)
o This does not include title pages or reference pages
o This is at least 2.5 written pages (page 3 must be at least ½ of a page)
Summary of the case
o This should be thorough enough (but not plagiarized (meaning in your own words)) to give a
reader who has not read the case a very good idea of what is going on
o Somewhere in the summary should be an explanation of what big data is
Answer to the questions at the end of the case which are based on the case, textbook readings or outside
sources (these are not your opinion but you can include comments)
o Chapter 9 is titled Developing and Acquiring Information Systems on pages 318-360 and there is
a lot of information on the topic related to the case throughout this chapter
o Since there are over 42 pages in our text book on this topic you should be able to find a lot of
information to back up your answers to the questions and provide in-text citation.
o Such as question #5 asks about the steps that should have been taken to avoid a negative
outcome on the project. Think SDLC.
Conclusion which is your thoughts on the case and its contents
In completing the case I want at least 3 in-text citations referencing the text book material or an
outside source backing up your comments/answers
Present the paper in Microsoft Office Word document format. Name the file LastName_Case_Study_4.doc and
submit it to the Online Venue (Moodle) by the beginning of Friday class of Week 12.
All written assignments and responses should follow either MLA/APA rules
o Title page (in MLA the title is usually on the first page but, the instructor can request a title page
and this is what I am asking for so that there is at least 2.5 full pages of content)
o No paragraph spacing
o Double spaced
o 1” margins (top, bottom, left and right)
o 12pt font size
o Times New Roman
o References and in-text citations follows either the APA or MLA rules
o Can follow link for the Purdue Owl site for information on MLA/APA:
Assignment Grading Criteria
Case Description
All Discussion Questions answered thoroughly
Used textbook and/or outside sources to substantiate discussion
Wrote in a clear, concise, and organized manner; demonstrated
ethical scholarship in accurate representation and attribution of
sources, displayed accurate spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

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