WASHINGTON – A decision to require that consumers create online accounts before they can browse available health plans under President Barack Obamas overhaul appears to have led to many of the programs technical problems, independent experts say.
Consumers trying to create their accounts multiplied the volume of online transactions that overwhelmed the website last week, causing long waits and frustration.
The administration threw in additional computing hardware to handle the volume, and deployed software experts to patch the mechanism for creating accounts, but reports of delays persisted Tuesday.
Allowing consumers to browse anonymously was one of the recommendations of Enroll UX 2014, a $3 million, 14-month project to design an optimal user experience for the insurance marketplaces. The well-known San Francisco design firm IDEO led the project and undertook extensive consumer interviews to create an easy-to-use site.
The first thing people said to us is, I need to be able to understand what my options are, said Sam Karp, vice president of programs at the California HealthCare Foundation.
The nonprofit helped organize and finance Enroll UX 2014, which also involved the federal government and 11 states.
Karp said he was concerned when he tried the federal website last week and found that anonymous shopping wasnt part of it. He considers the omission a major design flaw.
That was a design recommendation, and they didnt do it, Karp said. While several states that built their own online marketplaces allow window shopping, the federal site serving 36 states does not.
Added Karp, If they had had anonymous shopping, many people would have taken that route, and it would have potentially relieved the traffic on the identity verification part of the site.