In a blog post today, the Department of Health and Human Services laid out many of the technical problems that have plagued the Healthcare.gov website. Although the code for the front end of the site has been relatively stable, the back end has had myriad issues with regard to account creation — including sending incorrect information to health insurance providers. To improve it all, HHS is promising a "tech surge" that will involved outside consultants joining the existing team to fix problems. The HHS also says it will "aggressively monitor and identify parts of Healthcare.gov where individuals are encountering errors" so that it prioritizes those areas.
Apparently, the website has already seen some improvements. For a short time, as HHS explains, the department created a "virtual waiting room" for those attempting to create an account — but this only caused more confusion. That ad hoc solution is gone now, but we still haven't received a firm number of how many people have successfully created accounts and received insurance. Instead, the HHS has only said that the site has had 19 million unique visits.
Healthcare.gov's back end faced more significant technical hurdles than the average startup, owing to the requirement that contractors likely needed to have Federal Information Security Management Act certification. As Alex Howard, a fellow at the Harvard Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, told The Verge, "the firms that typically get contracts are the firms that are good at getting contracts, not typically good at executing on them." Whatever the reasons for the failure are, the HHS's admission that "we know there's still more work to be done" seems like a big understatement.