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“Nonsensical in all dimensions:” healthcare.gov about to switch #obamacare web hosts.

Oh, dear. This seems… ill-timed.

Some technical experts are perplexed at the U.S. government’s plan to switch web hosts for its new health insurance portal, HealthCare.gov, in the midst of an expected last-minute rush to beat a March 31 enrollment deadline for 2014 coverage.

Switching hosts is not in and of itself a huge risk if it is done carefully and with lots of preparation, according to technical experts interviewed by Reuters. It is the timing of the highly complex maneuver that is risky. If there are problems, the website could become sluggish or even unusable for anyone trying to enroll.

The government is tempting fate, they said.

The good news in all of this, for a given value of ‘good:’ it’s not happening this week (that would be terrifying). It’s scheduled for the end of March… when the government absolutely needs the system up and running, period.  Which suggests that the aforementioned given value of ‘good’ may not actually be. And maybe it’s terrifying anyway, come to think of it.

Does… does the government have any IT people? The “nonsensical in all dimensions” alarmed quote is from a top-level IT guy at Health Evolution Partners, which is a health care company investor – which means that it’s an informed alarmed quote. Easy to understand why, too: switching hosts is, ah, uncontrollable. Sometimes it works… fairly well. Sometimes it does not. And when it does not work, it tends to not work in a rather spectacular fashion. I’ve been through a few switchovers myself – heck, probably most of my readers have, too. So we all know that switching hosts is a great way to discover all of those patches, kludges, workarounds, and perennially slow-burning problems that had been conveniently forgotten or tacitly ignored up to that point; largely because those patches, kludges, etc. will take the move as an invitation to explode.

Now, of course, sometimes you have to do a switchover anyway. But is this really a good time for healthcare.gov to do the switch? The site is not actually operating at an acceptably functional level (they’ve had to delay yet another deadline) and the original implementation timeline was taken out back and shot more than a month ago. The Obama administration has pretty much no goodwill left with which to offset any further disruptions of what I will charitably call ‘service,’ particularly if that disruption can be seen as being actually unnecessary.

Or, put another way: Obamacare already has a horrible reputation. If the site blows up just before the March 31st deadline, that reputation will not improve.

Via Jim Geraghty.

Moe Lane (crosspost)

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