Healthcare.gov Didn't Have to Be a Disaster

Here's How to Fix It -- And Avoid Failure in the Future

U.S. President Barack Obama watches as Todd Park, Chief Technology Officer, shows him information on a tablet. Pete Souza / White House

Assigning blame for Healthcare.gov’s disastrous rollout has been about as entertaining as thrashing about in a room full of piñatas without a blindfold. So plentiful are the targets that some wonder whether failure was inevitable and, more generally, whether democracy is incompatible with technocracy. In both cases, the answer is no. The problems with Healthcare.gov were easily avoidable. And there is no reason that Americans should resign themselves to such failures, now or in the future.

There are dozens of examples in which the government has successfully imagined and deployed astonishing new technologies. The creation of GPS, the “stealth utility,” as Brad Parkinson, the U.S. Air Force colonel who spearheaded its creation, likes to call it, is the example everyone points to today. The core idea behind GPS -- attaching atomic clocks to low-power radio beacons, launching a constellation of those beacons into orbit, and

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