To keep the public informed on the “tech surge” to fix the Obamacare website, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius tweeted out an infographic on the recent progress (below). It’s divided about fifty-fifty between fluff and substance, so let’s take a look at each piece.
First we start out with a quote from Sebelius. More and more, Sebelius is the face of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, and the quote is meant to signal, “hey, I care about you and your healthcare, so I’m going to make this whole website thing work.” It goes in the fluff category, but people do respond better when they feel like their concerns are reaching a human being.
Next is a text box announcing the existence of the tech surge. There’s a slight emphasis on the new employees that Sebelius is bringing in to help. Hidden message: you guys probably don’t have a lot of faith in the old employees.
The main body of the infographic is a two-column spread with issues on one side, solutions on the other and arrows pointing across the divide. Good old arrows, always get you there. The issues and solutions start nice and specific (i.e. we needed more bandwidth so we made that happen) and devolve into,
Issue: There are problems à Solution: We’re working on them.
Or, more specifically:
Issue: “Health insurers are reporting errors and have sometimes received duplicate or incomplete information.”
Solution: “We’ve completed some software fixes with others underway.”
The remainder of the infographic reminds Americans that they don’t need to use the website to sign up for Obamacare. That’s one solution to the problems with the Obamacare website: don’t use the Obamacare website.
The infographic ends with a weird, not well-thought-out statistic: the number of calls to the Obamacare sign-up line in the first two days of the tech surge.
Sunday: 21,951 calls, Monday: 121,877 calls.
It’s great that people are using the call-in service to sign-up for Obamacare, but the tech surge was supposed to fix the website, not get people to go around it. Also, Sunday might be a slow day in general. Comparing raw numbers from Sunday to Monday is lazy analysis.
Really though, 50% fluff isn’t so bad. Infographics like these are meant to give people the sense that the problems are being fixed. To the degree that it does that, this is a success. The bad use of stats and vague generalities are annoying, but the real idea is to stall until healthcare.gov is a fully functioning website that can handle whatever gets thrown at it.