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Government Medicine United States

How 3 Young Coders Built a Better Portal To 499

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Doug Gross writes at CNN that spurred by the problems that have surrounded the rollout of the official website, three 20-year-old programmers in San Francisco have created an alternative website to help people get health insurance under the Affordable Care Act quickly and cheaply. The result is a bare-bones site called Health Sherpa, which lets users enter their zip code, plus details about their family and income, to find suggested plans in their area. 'We were surprised to see that it was actually fairly difficult to use to find and understand our options,' says George Kalogeropoulos, who created the site along with Ning Liang and Michael Wasser. 'Given that the data was publicly available, we thought that it made a lot of sense to take the data that was on there and just make it easy to search through and view available plans.' Of course, it's not fair to compare the creation of Health Sherpa to the rollout of the more complicated government ACA site, which even President Obama has acknowledged as a horribly botched affair. 'It isn't a fair apples-to-apples comparison,' says Kalogeropoulos. 'Unlike, our site doesn't connect to the IRS, DHS, and various state exchanges and authorities. Furthermore, we're using the government's data, so our site is only possible because of the hard work that the team has done.' But it does cast light on the difference between what can be done by a small group of experts, steeped in Silicon Valley's anything-is-possible mentality, and a massive government project in which politics and bureaucracy seem to have helped create an unwieldy mess. The three programmers have continued fine-tuning the site as its popularity has grown. In less than a week, the site has had almost 200,000 unique visitors and over half a million page views. '"The Health Sherpa makes it ridiculously easy for anyone to compare health care plans covered under Obamacare in 34 states," writes Connor Simpson at Atlantic Wire. "The result is a simple, beautiful, remarkably responsive website that anyone could use.'"
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How 3 Young Coders Built a Better Portal To

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  • by OakDragon ( 885217 ) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @10:26AM (#45400267) Journal
    One of the major sticking points about was that you had to create an account. This was done so that information could be gathered to provide you with pricing after subsidies . The idea was to lessen the sticker shock. I haven't read it explicitly in regard to this site, but I'm assuming it does not calculate your subsidy for you.
  • by OakDragon ( 885217 ) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @10:31AM (#45400299) Journal
    Hush my mouth, I tooled around their site a little, and they do estimate your subsidy, based on income and number of people in your household. So right now, this is much more useful that - at least for information purposes.
  • by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @10:35AM (#45400353) Homepage

    Looking at the code, it seems they are using Amazon and make use of it's CDN services.
    It's mostly simple HTML, interaction in JS and a lot of advertising, social media and tracking scripts, which are hosted outside their scope.
    My gut feeling tells me they'd have no problem scaling up at all. At worst they'd just clone the virtual server a few times.

  • Re:Agreed.... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Ronin Developer ( 67677 ) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @11:08AM (#45400731)

    My experience with interoperability with law enforcement (a different government entitity) was to use NIEM (an XML schema) as the standard. Proprietary models were replaced with the national model. Multiple data sharing initiatives where setup that used NIEM as the base model - including an open source records management system for law enforcement. Granted, the OS version was not as good a the commercial versions, it still got the job done AND could interoperate with the commercial versions. This was in 2006/7..

    Messages were sent via SOAP or using MQ. It worked. Well.

    I am betting the problem was the lack of interoperability of the documents between the insurance and health agencies due to the confusion that HIPPA created.

  • by jammer170 ( 895458 ) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @11:23AM (#45400899)

    No, it does not. I'm sick and tired of seeing that lie perpetuated over and over by people looking to pass unconstitutional law. The general welfare clause is entirely dependent on the other enumerated powers in the Constitution, none of which gives Congress the power over health care. Madison himself wrote extensively on exactly how that phrase was suppose to be interpreted, and he should know best, given that he wrote the fucking Constitution of the United States. Please educate yourself [] on the issue.

  • by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @11:46AM (#45401163)

    Lower left corner.


    Enter your household size and income to estimate your subsidy.

  • by hawkeey ( 1920310 ) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @12:17PM (#45401555)

    There is a law called EMTALA that requires hospitals to stabilize your health when you show up at a hospital. The bill signed under the Reagan administration created an unfunded universal healthcare system.

  • by Petron ( 1771156 ) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @12:32PM (#45401747)

    No his plan got cancelled because it didn't meet new federal requirements, idiot. Just like mine did.

    And my last mod point just expired...

    Blue Cross had a plan that they liked. Blue Cross had a plan the customer liked. Both were happy. Obama said "If you like your plan you can keep it"... Knowing that the law would require the plan to be changed to meet the requirement. He tried to spin this as "removing the under-insured" but no... People had plans they liked.

    Blue Cross now has to offer "Government Approved" plans, and I'm sure all the canceled policy holders got a note of what new "Government Approved" plans they can switch to (With the hike in premiums).

    Ever now and then we need a reminder that: There is no such thing as a free lunch.

  • Re:Just price? (Score:5, Informative)

    by icomefromtheinternet ( 3429517 ) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @12:39PM (#45401847) Homepage
    What were the zip codes? I'll look into it. (I'm a member of the team).
  • Re:Just price? (Score:5, Informative)

    by icomefromtheinternet ( 3429517 ) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @12:53PM (#45402045) Homepage

    I'm looking at a zip code and it tells me the price for all the plans, but it doesn't even tell me the deductible or out-of-pocket?

    Working on it. The details aren't in the main data set, so we've got to go get those elsewhere. We've identified a few sources and are working on integrating them.

    Source: I'm a member of the team.

  • by Jaysyn ( 203771 ) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @12:58PM (#45402109) Homepage Journal

    Estimating your subsidy is simple math. Verifying your personal and financial information is a totally different issue.

    And before they start handing out tax dollars as subsidies, they damned sure better verify the applicant's income.

    The insurer handles this part. HealthSherpa just tells you what plans are available for your area, & kicks you over to the insurer to review & purchase the plan.

    Source: my girlfriend signed herself & her child up today using HealthSherpa as a starting point.

  • Re:Doesn't Matter (Score:4, Informative)

    by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @02:08PM (#45403139) Homepage

    The original site design seems intended to funnel the largest amount of personal information to Experian Corp. It's a shopping site. Therefore you're going to get a lot of people just looking around to see what's for sale. What these guys have thrown together is probably exactly what the vast majority of visitors to the real Obamacare site want.

    What can I buy? How much does it cost? What discount can I get?

    The "ground troops" for this thing probably should have been insurance salesmen rather than a bunch of do-gooders.

User hostile.