A retired 44-year veteran of Xerox Corp. tells FOX Business that the problems with the health exchanges “won’t be fixed anytime soon,” that it appears the Administration didn’t do “the most rudimentary Beta tests” to catch problems ahead of time, and that the software architecture clearly is “very outdated.”
Anthony Federico knows what he’s talking about, and he is someone to listen to. Federico was the chief engineer of Business Group Operations at Xerox and retired last year after 44 years with the company, where he directly managed the development of the company’s largest flagship products, standardized processes for all product development, and addressed key issues on software design. Federico primarily developed Xerox’s large system products entailing software and electronics for corporate and government clients. And he managed software development and information technology (corporate computing) teams.
Federico has two dozen patents, mostly in software development, and he currently serves on the board of directors for EchoStar Corp. One of his close friends at Xerox even developed the computer mouse that Microsoft later copied.
Despite the federal government spending nearly $400 million to date on the state health exchanges, according to the Government Accountability Office, consumers for the most part cannot log on to buy health insurance on the exchanges run by the federal government since the October 1 launch. “States largely have been able to launch their sites without problems, but with all their federal taxpayer money, the federal government hasn’t been able to successfully operate websites for the states they’re running the exchanges for,” says Federico.
President Barack Obama said yesterday there is "no excuse" for the problems many people are having signing up for coverage on the websites. The House Energy and Commerce committee has scheduled a hearing Thursday on implementation problems, where Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is now expected to testify, despite disavowals to the contrary. Numerous Republican members of Congress are calling on Sebelius to step down. Now the White House may not rule out a delay in the individual mandate tax.
Here’s what Federico had to say on software system launches and the health exchanges: “You have to go through months of software testing because the most important thing is not just developing the software, but testing it so that you can train a large number of people to be able to answer technical questions as they arise. It doesn’t seem possible the Administration did that, from what you’re seeing.”
He added: “Clearly this isn’t just a little glitch, these are fundamental problems. You don’t put up something live and then find these fundamental problems later. You find these fundamental problems in beta testing ahead of time, letting actual customers use the software. That’s critical. It’s clear to me they didn’t do that.”
Federico said: “I don’t see how the very fundamental problems they are experiencing could possibly have been missed in the most rudimentary Beta test. With something this complex there has to be trained people able to handle technical questions from users and others. To train those people, extensive testing is required to develop a list of problems people will encounter and what the correct response is. Since there doesn’t seem to be any answers available it definitely looks like the Beta test was skipped.”
Federico also said: “By everyone’s admission, the problem is not a glitch but very broad. I’ve heard that they have brought in technical gurus to help address the issues. It really looks to me that they need better technical management first,” noting, “if there wasn’t a Beta and this software was released by order of the calendar, then this problem won’t be fixed any time soon. Experts will demand fundamental changes that start with the architecture that I hear is very outdated.”
Bringing in Verizon to fix the problem will speed up the fixes. “That’s actually a good move,” to call in Verizon, Federico says, because “Verizon has a lot of experience putting up huge software systems. So they’ll get people who are good at developing and managing large systems.”
Elizabeth MacDonald joined FOX Business Network (FBN) as stocks editor in September 2007.
Follow Elizabeth MacDonald on Twitter @LizMacDonaldFOX.