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Healthcare.gov Reliability Issues

It has been difficult if not impossible to sign up, and customer service has been inadequate. According to the Slate.com's article- 'What really went wrong with healthcare.gov?', 'the healthcare.gov's biggest problems are most likely not in the front-end code of the site's Web pages, but in the back-end, server-side code that handles-or doesn't handle-the registration process, which no one can see. There are a few clues, however. The site's front end (the actual Web pages and bits of script) doesn't look too bad, but it is not coping well with whatever scaling issues the back end (account storage, database lookups, etc.) is having' (Auerbach).

David Auerbach, the author of the article, 'What really went wrong with healthcare.gov?', explained that he tried to sign up for the federal marketplace six days after rollout. The site claimed to be working, but after he started the registration process, he sat on a 'Please Wait' page for 10 minutes before being redirected to an error page: 'Sorry, we can't find that page on HealthCare.gov' (Auerbach).

Roughly 22,000 Americans have filed appeals with the government to try to get mistakes corrected, according to internal government data obtained by The Washington Post. They contend that the computer system for the new federal online marketplace charged them too much for health insurance, steered them into the wrong insurance program or denied them coverage entirely. Although the government plans to address this issue and fix the said errors there are still ethical and moral ramifications of the issue (Goldstein).

The Washington Post described Addie Wilson's situation. 'It is definitely frustrating and not fair,' said Addie Wilson, 27, who lives in Fairmont, W.Va., and earns $22,000 a year working with at-risk families. She said that she is paying $100 a month more than she should for her insurance and that her deductible is $4,000 too high. When Wilson logged on to HealthCare.gov in late December, she needed coverage right away. Her old insurance was ending, and she was to have gallbladder surgery in January. But the Web site would not calculate the federal subsidy to which she knew she was entitled. Terrified to go without coverage, Wilson phoned a federal call center and took the advice she was given: Pay the full price now and appeal later. Now she is stuck, hoping that the government really work on getting this fixed (Goldstein).

The obvious ramification is the time wasted by the thousands of American in filing for appeals with the government to try to correct mistakes made as a result of the website. Fortunately, no one was directly physically harmed as a result of the unreliability of the website. A typical conventional ethical or moral theory cannot be easily applied to this issue because no harm was caused, and providing these services by the government is voluntary, although one may argue that it's the people's tax dollars that are used to pay for such services, so they expect to receive reliable software. However, as illustrated by the ACM Moral Imperatives, which describes several Code of Ethics, computer professionals must be thorough when they evaluate any computing system to ensure quality and prevent any damages that may be done to others. Although no damages were done, the government's software contractor or employees did not ensure the quality of the website by thoroughly testing the website.

This is a common issue with most computer professionals. Mistakes are very common with products, the only difference is that the vendors to the healthcare.gov website did not directly pay for the services. If they did pay there would be several problems and ethical theory or moral justifications for such a topic.

For more information about this issue visit: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/healthcaregov-cant-handle-appeals-of-enrollment-errors/2014/02/02/bbf5280c-89e2-11e3-916e-e01534b1e132_story.html