Nearly one month after the Obama administration unveiled its website allowing citizens to shop for health insurance — key to the Affordable Care Act's core promise of increasing coverage at lower cost — Americans are still having widespread trouble enrolling through healthcare.gov.
A Hoboken tech startup says it can fix that.
Andrew Jensen, founder of MallStand LLC, an online social shopping platform, is guaranteeing his firm can fix healthcare.gov in one month at no charge.
"I don't think it's as tough a project as they're making it sound," Jensen said.
Put another way: Jensen says MallStand can accomplish what the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the department of Health and Human Services, Office of Management Budget, and lead contractor CGI Group plus other multi-million dollar contractors have failed to do.
"When you have too many cooks in the kitchen, things don't get done correctly," he said.
Is that oversimplifying things? Not to Jensen, who believes the core fault with the website's operation is the government's inclination toward complexity: He argues the government has brought in too wide a variety of specialists and organizations, creating confused communication.
"When you're trying to combine a lot of different projects together, it becomes too complicated. When you have a lot of different programmers, it's hard to coexist," he said.
Jensen says programming teams work best when they work on the entire projects together, tying front-end with back-end operations and ensuring the integrity of databases. He said MallStand's website, a place where users can locate deals and socialize with merchants and friends, functions smoothly with more than 2 million products with 30,000 accounts. Its site is mostly the work of two programmers, Jensen said.
Healthcare.gov is an entirely different entity, running exchanges for 36 states that declined to do so themselves. The site was overwhelmed with technical glitches when unveiled Oct. 1, improving slightly since. Experts say the complexity of the health care policy, determining who is eligible and how much government subsidies they can receive, requires the input of massive data, further burdening the exchanges.
Success of the exchanges is integral to the ACA's central promise of lowering health costs by increasing the pool of insured individuals to include younger and healthier participants. But fewer than expected have enrolled though the beleaguered site since it went live. The White House last week said the site's problems would be fixed by Nov. 30. It also extended deadline to enroll without penalty until March 31.
In the meantime, Jensen said MallStand emailed the White House its offer last week.
"I'm stilling waiting for President Obama and (HHS Secretary) Kathleen Sebelius to give us a call," Jensen said. "I'm not expecting anything soon, but I am hoping for it."