Healthcare.gov: The Dirty Little Secret No One is Talking About

It seems like everyone has an opinion as to why the much vaunted Healthcare.gov website has so many problems. We hear news reporters and analysts talk about integration issues between Healthcare.gov and other government websites. We hear them talk about scope creep. We hear them talk about poor communication and lack of management oversight. While these are legitimate factors, they are not the root cause. To find the root cause you have to dig deeper, perhaps as early as October 2011 when the government began subcontracting out development work for the website. In a recent report from USA Today, Healthcare.gov was built using “10-year old technology.” That’s practically a lifetime in Internet years. Why would the US government entrust the development of a major website in the hands of subcontractors who use outdated technology and seemingly incompetent software developers? An article written by the Sunlight Foundation claims there were “47 organizations that won contracts” for “the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.” With 47 different subcontractors, how could government know at all times “who” was actually working on their site? Chances are; they didn’t. This leads us to the root cause or “dirty little secret” for the failure of Heathcare.gov, which is that the subcontracting companies used overseas developers, mostly from India, to build the website. This practice is also known as “offshoring.” Quality Software Services, Inc. (QSSI) was one of the primary subcontractors hired by the government (through CGI Federal, an American branch of a Canadian company) to help with the site’s development. QSSI has an office located in Hyderabad, India. The President & CEO of QSSI is Bikram Bakshi. Bakshi received his B.S. in Computer Science & Engineering from Delhi Institute of Technology. It is highly likely, even probable, that QSSI used their Indian branch to do much of the development work on Healthcare.gov. In fact, it would not be surprising if more than 50% of the site was built by offshore developers. NBC reported that “Deadline after deadline was missed” and that “the government was so slow in issuing specifications…” A government progress report also “identified a lack of employees ‘to manage the multiple activities and contractors happening concurrently…” More than $394 million has been spent on the development of Healthcare.gov. That’s six times the original budget and about 100 times more than it should have cost. The government repeatedly told their subcontractors that Healthcare.gov was going to be pushed live on October 1, no exceptions. But even with all of the money floating around, the hundreds of offshore developers couldn’t get it done, to say nothing of the very poor quality of the underlying code. It’s sad to think that our own government’s flagship website Healthcare.gov was built, at least partially, by offshore developers. If our government can unknowingly fall into the offshoring trap, imagine how many other businesses get duped into hiring supposedly “US-based” software development companies that offshore their projects to save money. Take a lesson from Healthcare.gov and don’t leave your software development in the hands of any company that uses offshore developers. We have learned the hard way here at Surge that despite the cost savings, offshoring a software project is a recipe for disaster. Download our white paper for a more in-depth analysis of the challenges with offshoring. What experiences do you have with offshore software development? Have you seen the same low quality coding that is manifest in Healthcare.gov?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

America's Best Software Engineers, On-Demand, at an Affordable Price
Surge Forward With Us