Kadner: Affordable Care Act? Just reboot the computer system
By Phil Kadner firstname.lastname@example.org October 30, 2013 10:20PM
Congress held a hearing Wednesday to determine what went wrong with the website the government put in place to register people under the Affordable Care Act. | AP file photo
Updated: December 2, 2013 12:09PM
Reboot. That’s my suggestion for the federal government.
Congress held a hearing Wednesday to determine what went wrong with the website the government put in place to register people for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
The computer system apparently has “glitches.” That means it doesn’t work.
As anyone who has ever worked with a computer knows, when that happens you “reboot.”
I don’t have a clue how to “boot” anything, but I have rebooted many times.
In fact, as I was writing this column, the original version vanished. I am told this is impossible because the system automatically saves everything.
“The System,” as computer users are well aware, can never fail. Human error always is the cause of any malfunction, problem or screw-up.
And so it is with the computer system and website in Washington, D.C. Someone has to take the blame.
I have learned, from painful experience, that when nothing else works, you shut the computer down and start all over again. This is one method of rebooting.
“Why does that work?” I have asked the Help Desk on many occasions.
“It just does,” the tech guy will say.
I realize he probably has some other, more technical explanation but feels I am unworthy of it.
I have proved myself a moron by announcing I don’t even know what system I am running on my computer.
At the newspaper, I work in “The Cloud.” I do not know what that means, either, although I am told “The Server” is there.
I think of The Server in The Cloud the way ancient Incans must have about the sun. It is the giver of life, inexplicable, mystical, forever floating in the heavens.
Yahoo is in The Cloud. Google is there as well. All of the 21st century gods with odd-sounding names are drifting there, with Steve Jobs probably operating the controls.
Yet, back on Earth, congressmen were demanding answers about why a computer system birthed in Washington had failed. They were not laughing, but I thought it was pretty funny.
If the system had been put in place the way private businesses do such things, there would have been no problems, critics have said.
Have these people ever worked for a company that installed a new computer system? Have they ever seen one operate as expected?
If so, the names should be placed on the Internet, which is somewhere in The Cloud.
I have seen many computer systems put in place, and not once have they met expectations.
Eventually they work, sort of. You learn to live with the glitches.
Computers are inanimate objects that have artificial intelligence, yet we embody them with human traits.
They get viruses. A good owner, like a good parent, will get his computer inoculated with anti-viral software. This will require constant updating and eventually cause your computer to sloooooow down.
A computer geek will tell you the software is terrible or the computer is flawed, curse Bill Gates and remove all the anti-virus stuff from your computer and get it running again.
And then he may tell you to install spyware. This is to keep hackers out of the computer and prevent them from stealing your personal information.
There are now revelations that the health care reform computers did not contain the appropriate safeguards to prevent hackers from obtaining personal financial information about the people in the system.
Congressmen are very concerned about this, as they should be. But no one seemed especially concerned when my identity was recently stolen.
“It happens to thousands of people every day,” I was told by law enforcement officials.
Not much can be done. There’s no way of knowing how the thieves got my information.
It could have been ripped off by a bank employee who left her job or a minimum-wage store clerk with access to computer information or by some hacker.
Don’t worry about it. Contact all the credit rating services. Fill out a report with law enforcement to protect yourself.
Get on with your life.
Congress doesn’t care about the millions, maybe billions of dollars, spent, stolen, lost, each year due to identity theft. It’s worried about the computer network set up to run Obamacare.
I keep looking for people who will fix things, and apparently they no longer exist.
Everyone wants to complain, blame the other guy, claim the sky is failing and hope no one notices that no one is really doing what they are supposed to do — do the job right in the first place.
The Affordable Care Act has been in the works for years. The president should have made sure he had the best experts in the country on the job because he knew his critics would be watching, and it was really important to the people who elected him.
But congressmen, who believe Barack Obama and the government itself are incompetent, could have acted as a watchdog.
“What are you doing to make sure the best people are working on this? Are you making sure the system can’t be hacked? How do you know it’s going to work when it’s time? Have you run tests?”
Those questions didn’t get asked because some congressmen didn’t care.
Others were hoping the system would fail so they could say, “I told you so.”
And here we are, with our collective heads in a place that is far more reachable than The Cloud.
I do not pretend to understand computers or the people who make them function.
But when you combine computers and government bureaucrats, I know what’s going to happen, without a congressional hearing.