Once more with feeling: the mêlée involving the Affordable Care Act website yet again dwarfed last week’s other IT-related impediments, which were relatively few for a change.
During last week’s round-the-clock Obamacare website glitch watch, for instance, we heard a government official admit that somewhere around 30 percent to 40 percent (no one seems to know for certain) of the required ACA back-office computing functionality related to how insurance companies get paid hasn’t been built yet. Documents were revealed showing that senior Obama Administration officials were worried, just before the website’s roll out, that there could be major problems—even though these same officials have claimed they had no inkling that website’s operation would lay down and play dead once going live. It was also revealed that, in a load test conducted just days before the website went live, the system choked when 500 users attempted to access the website simultaneously. We also heard the Administration redefine operational success: a website that would work smoothly for 80 percent who try to enroll. This was immediately followed by debates about what that 80 percent measure actually means—if anything other than that a lot of people won’t be able to enroll for ACA health insurance via the website despite the promise of an “optimally functioning” website that would “work smoothly” by the end of November. These events had more than a little bit to do with extensions to the ACA 2014 and 2015 enrollment periods in order to help meet both Administration technical and political objectives. HealthCare.gov had company in its misery: There were continued delays to CuidadoDeSalud.gov, the Spanish-language version of the ACA website. Finally, despite everything, the White House released an upbeat report assuring the nation that everything will indeed soon be fine.
The other IT-related obstacles, impairments and nervous breakdowns of the week included two rail system uffdas—one computer-related, and one apparently mechanical-cum-human error related. The first concerns a service outage on San Francisco’s BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) system that lasted from late Thursday night into Friday morning. It was apparently caused by a server upgrade Thursday night that didn’t go according to plan. The second rail outage involved a New York City-bound Amtrak train that ended up going to Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania (outside Philadelphia) instead.
Finally, Boeing warned the 15 operators of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner and 747-8 jumbo aircraft equipped with GEnx engines by GE not to fly at high attitude within 50 nautical miles of thunderstorms that may contain ice crystals. Apparently, there’s a risk of engine icing problems. Boeing and GE say that they are looking at a software fix to the engine control system which should be available early next year.
San Francisco’s BART System Goes Down for Several Hours
Amtrak Train 664 to New York City Ends Up in Philadelphia Suburb
Boeing Tells 787 Dreamliner and 747-8 Jumbo Operators to Avoid Thunderstorms
Of Other Interest …
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.