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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 12/20/13

Microsoft and the NSA Take Over the Obamacare Website

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The Obamacare idea never was about helping people. After all, it was first proposed by corporate executives and Republicans during the Nixon administration as a way of increasing corporate profits by getting those deadbeat poor people to pay for their own healthcare. Under Obamacare, millions of people are still left without coverage. Those with pre-existing conditions (which is most of us) can be charged three times what others pay. In addition to monthly payments, there are also extremely high copays and deductibles -- amounting to thousands of extra dollars per year if you have the misfortune to get sick. Meanwhile, there is no limit to Wall Street greed and profits.

We recently learned that poor folks are having their bank accounts emptied to make their Obamacare payments. We also learned that low-income folks who sign up for Obamacare are forced to enroll in Medicaid -- where if they die with medical expenses owing, their estate is sold off to pay for their outstanding medical bills.   Ironically, many of these low-income people have homes. The only reason they have a low annual income is that they lost their jobs due to the Wall Street gambling that crashed the economy in 2008. The lack of a job is also why they have no health insurance. Now adding insult to injury, to get health care they are being required to enroll in Medicaid and thereby hand over the title to their homes. For more on this insanity, see
http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2022469957_medicaidrecoveryxml.html

 Just when you think things could not get any worse, another bombshell is dropped on our heads. It was just announced that Microsoft millionaire Kurt DelBene has been appointed to take over the Obamacare website.

Microsoft joins the NSA
Microsoft joins the NSA
(Image by David Spring)
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Up until a couple of days ago, Kurt was the head of Microsoft Office. While running Microsoft Office, one of his many questionable decisions was trashing the simple Microsoft Word 2003 top menu and replacing it with an extremely complex and ever changing "ribbon" in Word 2007. The Obamacare website is already too complex. Kurt is the last person one would want to "fix" this problem. In addition, Kurt has no background in website functioning and design. So why was Kurt chosen to fix one of the worst rollouts in website history?

To answer this question, we need to first understand a little bit about website design and the exact problems of the Obamacare website. Being an adult education instructor who has spent years teaching courses in website design, I will try to make this easy for you. All websites are hosted or stored on "servers" -- which are just fancy computers. There are two main categories of servers -- Linux servers and Windows servers. Linux servers are much faster, less expensive,  and more reliable than Windows servers. This is why the Obamacare website, healthcare.gov, uses Linux servers. Kurt DelBene obviously has no background in Linux servers. He does not even have a background in Microsoft Windows servers. But it is not that hard to figure out why the healthcare.gov website crashed.

First, servers will crash if they are exposed to too much traffic during any given second. The solution to this problem is to string several servers together so that when one server is fully occupied, any new people are just transferred to the next server. The fact that the original Obamacare website designers did not anticipate and prepare for this is pure incompetence. This problem has been largely fixed recently by a group of Linux programmers from a Linux company called Red Hat.

The second and much bigger problem is the design of the Home page for Obamacare. There are way too many decisions to be made when one first visits the Home page. This results in a huge number of "Javascript calls" in the hidden coding for the Home page. To see this huge list of hidden coding for yourself, just go to healthcare.gov, then right click, then click on "View Page Source." This is very bad and extremely bloated code. Below are lines 293 to 312 of 1,696 lines of code for the Obamacare Home page.


Copyrighted Image? DMCA


In fact, the Obamacare website coding reminds me a lot of the coding used at the beginning of any Word 2007 document. Microsoft Word 2007 coding is so bloated that if you try to copy and paste it into a website, you will crash the website. For more on this problem, see the following article. http://gabesumner.com/copy-from-ms-word-paste-into-a-rich-text-wysiwyg-editor

(Note that there is a much better free word-processing program called LibreOffice that works on any computer and any website and does not have the bloated code problem. It even works with Microsoft Word documents. So it is possible to make a decent word processor that does not kill websites.)  

There are code-editing tools whose primary job is cleaning up bloated Microsoft Word coding so that it does not crash websites. But in a sane world, web designers would not have to deal with this MS bloated code problem in the first place. This is another reason I was shocked that Kurt DelBene is being allowed to go anywhere near any website. Kurt is the King of bloated code! He is clueless about how the internet works. Given his track record in bloating the code of Microsoft Word, it is doubtful Kurt will even look at the coding of the Home page -- much less reduce the number of Javascript calls.

The third and perhaps biggest problem with the Obamacare website is that there is a huge bottleneck at the Home page of healthcare.gov. This is because one has to register in order to actually view the healthcare "options." In other words, you cannot find out the prices of how much this will cost you unless you first register on the website and/or answer an entire series of questions (see image below).


Copyrighted Image? DMCA


After clicking the "No Thanks" link above, a "please wait" warning appears. The wait takes a very long time. But if you are patient, a page showing 21 plans will eventually appear. The lowest cost plan assumes you are a non-smoker and costs $140 per month plus $6,000 per year deductible if you get sick. The total maximum cost is $7,460 per year or $640 per month for a single person. Given that most Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, it is hard to see where they will come up with the extra $640 per month. If you have a low income, you may qualify for a discount. But you may also risk losing your home and all your assets if you take this route.

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David Spring M. Ed. is a college instructor in web design and computer programming from Washington State and author of the book, Free Yourself from Microsoft and the NSA... Learn Linux and Libre Office. David has a Master's Degree in Education from (more...)
 
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