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The federal health care exchange was built using 10-year-old technology that may require constant fixes and updates for the next six months and the eventual overhaul of the entire system, technology experts told USA TODAY.
The site could be perfect, but if the systems from which it draws data are not up to speed, it doesn't matter, said
"It is a core problem in the sense of it's fundamental to this thing actually working, but it's not necessarily a problem that the people who wrote HealthCare.gov can get to," Engates said. "Even if they had a perfect system, it still won't work."
Recent changes have made the exchanges easier to use, but they still require clearing the computer's cache several times, stopping a pop-up blocker, talking to people via Web chat who suggest waiting until the server is not busy, opening links in new windows and clicking on every available possibility on a page in the hopes of not receiving an error message. With those changes, it took one hour to navigate the HealthCare.gov enrollment process Wednesday.
Those steps shouldn't be necessary, experts said.
"I have never seen a website -- in the last five years -- require you to delete the cache in an effort to resolve errors," said
"The application could be fundamentally flawed," said
Outsiders acknowledged they can't see the whole system, but they said they feared HHS built a system that will need an expensive overhaul that would cause more headaches for people trying to buy insurance.
HHS officials did not respond to a request about the nature of the problems, but they reiterated that wait times have been reduced or eliminated as they continue to work to fix the system. As of Thursday, the site had received 17 million unique visitors.
"I will be the first to tell you that the website launch was rockier than we wanted it to be," HHS Secretary
Engates said HHS has been opaque about the problems, and the tech industry doesn't know the extent of the issues. "There's no secrets leaking out," he said. "I'm sure everyone's looking for something to change the direction of the conversation, but it's just not there."
"I think it's a data problem," Kim said. "It always comes down to that."
And if that's the case, the problems are beyond "rocky," he said. Instead, it would require a "fundamental re-architecture."
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