Why was Healthcare.gov so badly designed?

After all, Amazon and other sites that have far more traffic actually work.

According to a must-read piece by health expert Avik Roy, Healthcare.gov is so complicated because the government didn’t want to tell us up front how much the plans really cost.

You can’t go on Healthcare.gov and just browse among the insurance plans. That could lead to a medical condition known as sticker shock.

Instead, the interested party must first create an account, which—just FYI—will require a lot of your personal information, with little or no guarantee of privacy. Then you can learn if you’re eligible for subsidies—if you are, then you'll never really confront the true costs of ObamaCare.

Subsidies, of course, in the ObamaCare worldview, are an unmitigated good. The money must come from somewhere, but let’s not think about that.

Roy writes:

A growing consensus of IT experts, outside and inside the government, have figured out a principal reason why the website for Obamacare’s federally-sponsored insurance exchange is crashing. Healthcare.gov forces you to create an account and enter detailed personal information before you can start shopping. This, in turn, creates a massive traffic bottleneck, as the government verifies your information and decides whether or not you’re eligible for subsidies. HHS bureaucrats knew this would make the website run more slowly. But they were more afraid that letting people see the underlying cost of Obamacare’s insurance plans would scare people away.

Roy continues:

This political objective—masking the true underlying cost of Obamacare’s insurance plans—far outweighed the operational objective of making the federal website work properly. Think about it the other way around. If the “Affordable Care Act” truly did make health insurance more affordable, there would be no need to hide these prices from the public.

Comparable private-sector e-commerce sites, like eHealthInsurance.com, allow you to shop for plans and compare prices simply by entering your age and your ZIP code. After you’ve selected a plan you like, you fill out an on-line application. That substantially winnows down the number of people who rely on the site for network-intensive tasks.

The federal government’s decision to force people to apply before shopping, Weaver and Radnofsky write, “proved crucial because, before users can begin shopping for coverage, they must cross a busy digital junction in which data are swapped among separate computer systems built or run by contractors including CGI Group Inc., the healthcare.gov developer, Quality Software Services Inc., a UnitedHealth Group Inc. unit; and credit-checker Experian PLC. If any part of the web of systems fails to work properly, it could lead to a traffic jam blocking most users from the marketplace.”

Jay Angoff, a former federal official at the agency that oversees the exchange, told the Journal that he was surprised by the decision. “People should be able to get quotes” without entering all of that information upfront. …

Think about it. It’s quite possible that much of this disaster could have been avoided if the Obama administration had been willing to be open with the public about the degree to which Obamacare escalates the cost of health insurance. If they had, then a number of the problems with the exchange’s software architecture would have been avoided. But that would require admitting that the “Affordable Care Act” was not accurately named.

For those who don’t qualify for subsidies, there will be a shock at the end of the sign-up process.