I’m so old …
[voice from the audience: How old are you?]
… why, I’m sooooooo old that I remember, back before the Good Lord gave us websites, we had things called “call centers” where banks of telephone operators took phone calls and consummated transactions. That was a big improvement over making people come in to physical offices.
So if – once again – a contractor f’d up an IT project and we can’t get Healthcare.gov working in time, what would it cost to hire enough call-center capacity to get the damned thing done between now and the end of the year?
1. Recall that Obamacare was supposed to be a state-run program, with the federal exchange just a backup for states too dumb or stubborn to do it themselves. As far as I can tell, the state-level programs are mostly working fine. This ought to teach voters a lesson about voting for teahadi politicians, but probably won’t.
2. I’m more than willing to believe that the WH and HHS blew this one by not paying close enough attention. But go ahead: you try to run a big software project through federal procurement under a hard deadline, and come back and tell me about it.
Contracting-out can be a fine idea. It can also be, and often is, a recipe for disaster, especially when the underlying bureaucracy has been so hollowed out that it can’t do the appropriate monitoring and supervision. Paradoxically, an agency needs to be stronger and better-managed to run a contracting-out system than it does to do things in house. Of course heads should roll over the healthcare.gov rollout, but it’s harder to make heads roll when the guilty parties aren’t on your headcount.