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Stranded in cyberspace

By Jimmy Alford | Published Saturday, November 2, 2013

I believe something positive can be learned from the hunk of junk floating around out there in cyberspace.

I’m talking about healthcare.gov – the federal government’s portal to health insurance for millions of Americans,

Jimmy Alford

Jimmy Alford

All the conspiracy theorists, worrywarts, Tea Party demagogues and nut-jobs out there are wrong. The federal government isn’t trying to take over our lives. The Obama Administration isn’t attempting to turn the United States into a socialist commune. That would require competency.

The fact is, they just aren’t that smart.

I’m not insured. It’s now the law that I have to be insured. I know I need insurance anyway because I’m a responsible adult. I can afford insurance, and I’ve been waiting for Healthcare.gov to roll out.

Like millions of Americans, I tried to sign up and get covered. Tried. I’m still uninsured and likely to remain that way for a while, if I want to go through the feds.

Healthcare.gov cost somewhere around $400 to $500 million to create – far more than Facebook, LinkedIn or Spotify. According to Digitaltrends.com, these companies’ sites cost a fraction of what taxpayers spent.

If you think comparing social media sites to the federal insurance boondoggle site is a stretch, you’re probably right. Social media sites do a better job, with heavier loads and better security.

Healthcare.gov aimed to help about 20 million uninsured, all of whom are required to get health insurance now.

President Obama said the site was crashing because of heavy use stemming from popularity. The numbers really don’t support this hypothesis.

Facebook not only has tons of features and uses personal data that includes banking information (if you purchase products or advertising) – it also serves about 800 million people every 30 days.

That is about 27 million customers every day.

All these numbers just circle back around to the fact that we, the taxpayers, got taken to the cleaners on this deal.

Behind all websites and computer programs is computer code. People create this code. The code is only as good as the people who create it.

Think of this coding as a bridge, meant to support large amounts of traffic going from point A to point B.

When you build a bridge, you hire an engineering firm, do studies, test everything, then build it and test some more before you open it to traffic. The same things are done with websites.

The great thing about websites is that, unlike bridges, no one dies if they fail.

The bad thing is that, just like bridges, when they close, people get jammed up and can’t go anywhere.

The federal government paid for the equivalent of a shoddy bridge. The contractors didn’t test the coding thoroughly, and it became a $400 to $500 million failure.

I’m sure there have been bigger government screw-ups, but this one is special.

It’s special in that Republicans and Democrats have gone round and round over the healthcare law, and the Democrats won. It’s the law.

It’s special because the day it rolled out was “No Government Day” – the day the federal government shut down – and it was the reason for the shutdown. The Democrats still prevailed and (I believe) succeeded in shaming the Republicans.

Yet the Democrats shot themselves in the foot by allowing their baby, Healthcare.gov, to be stillborn. Everything they fought for was for naught. They were hoisted on their own petard.

None of this makes much difference to the uninsured children and adults who are still uninsured. The people who needed affordable health insurance are still waiting.

Somewhere there is a child with a runny nose, maybe a cold. He’s cranky. Through no fault of his own, he’s uninsured and will just have to ride this out. But if his cold gets worse, his mom will take him to an ER where taxpayers will pick up a much larger bill than the doctor visit co-pay would have been – if he’d had insurance.

This will happen millions of times this year. There are 2.6 million uninsured children in Texas alone, according to familiesusa.org.

And the cost of health care continues to rise, while we try to salvage that piece of junk out there in cyberspace.

Jimmy Alford is a graphic artist, photographer and reporter for the Messenger.

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