By Jon Gabriel
March 2010 was a long time ago. “Bad Romance” and “TiK ToK” were screeching up the charts, Hot Tub Time Machine was (kinda) packing multiplexes, and some unspellable Icelandic volcano shut down rich kids’ spring break in Europe.
It also was the month Obamacare was signed into law. One of its most popular promises was an online health insurance exchange that would be as easy to use as Travelocity. Never mind that a private version already existed in ehealthinsurance.com, but government tech gurus were going to build an even cooler version. And they had three-and-a-half years to do it!
As we now know, Healthcare.gov launched with a fizzle, even as President Obama declared it the Beltway’s rival to KAYAK and Amazon. A month later, the site still doesn’t work, leaving everyone who promoted Obamacare looking like n00bs.
The people in charge now say that 42 months wasn’t nearly enough time to launch this pretty straightforward site. But once upon a time this country could do some pretty awesome stuff in less than three and a half years. Like what?
3. 1. The Empire State Building
The iconic 103-story skyscraper reigned as the world’s tallest building for nearly 40 years. And it only took 410 days to build! At that pace, workers could have built two more Empire State Buildings in the time it took to create one health care website that doesn’t work.
5. 2. Defeating the Nazis
Germany declared war on United States two days after Pearl Harbor. Three years and five months later, Hitler offed himself in his bunker before badass allied soldiers could bring him to justice. What’s tougher: destroying all the fascists trying to take over the world or building a knockoff insurance website?
7. 3. This Thing
Just as useful as HealthCare.gov.
8. 4. The iPhone
It revolutionized how we talk, type — even read Buzzfeed. Steve Jobs launched an ultra-secret initiative called “Project Purple” in 2004. At that point, many of the designers were aiming for a tablet until Jobs pulled rank. Three years later, the black turtlenecked one unveiled the market-changing tech before cheering crowds at Macworld 2007.
10. 5. The Rose Bowl
Holding more than 90,000 screaming college football fans, the Rose Bowl is still one of the largest stadiums on earth. The circumference is 2,430 feet — nearly half a mile. And did it take three-and-a-half years to build? Nah, bro. Just a year.
12. 6. This Awesome Baby
Nine months. Nine-and-a-half, tops.
13. 7. Pretty Much Every Website Ever
You know what developers call a website that takes three-and-a-half years to create? A failure.
Remember how HealthCare.gov was promised to be like KAYAK? The cofounders of Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz formed the travel metasearch company in January 2004, had the beta site up by May and was open to the public January 2005.
Jeff Bezos founded his company in 1994 and by summer of 1995, Amazon.com was selling books. Both of these sites were vastly more challenging than HealthCare.gov.
But health insurance is way different! Not really. eHealthInsurance.com was founded in 1997 and by 1998 they had already sold their first health insurance policy. And that was back when we were dragging along with 28.8 modems and AOL keywords.
If big government can’t even build a website that works, how on earth are they going to handle your health care?
Follow Jon on Twitter at @ExJon.