When Ronald Reagan became president in 1981, the federal government’s procurement process was long beset by gross corruption and overspending. During the mid-1980s, investigations from watchdog groups such as the Project on Government Oversight (then called the "Project on Military Procurement") uncovered just how bad Washington’s spendthrift culture had become. These studies illustrated the extent of inbred and massive fraud in the procurement process, by drawing attention to the outrageous prices the government was paying for essentially everyday items such as toilet seats for government planes. The $640 toilet seat became a symbol of government inefficiency and waste.
Today, that “$640 toilet seat” is back -- in the form of a government website and with a price tag in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
When President Barack Obama inked his name on his signature piece of legislation, known officially as the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” he set in motion a massive technological and administrative project that included the construction of a new ObamaCare website, which would serve as a clearinghouse for potential enrollees. Despite a staggering price tag of more than one-third of a billion dollars related to the technology behind ObamaCare’s “federally facilitated exchanges” (FFEs), little attention was paid the site until October 1st, when ObamaCare made its official public debut.
And what did American taxpayers get in return for a website costing them nearly $400 million? A simple message: “Health Insurance Marketplace: Please Wait.” This error message was the only reply given to millions of Americans who went to the web portal to sign-up for coverage in order to avoid IRS fines for not signing up. To make matters worse, in many instances, data from the few people who were able to access the enrollment process was riddled with errors, making it impossible to finalize health plans, and forcing people to restart the frustrating process.
A $640 toilet seat would have been more a more effective mechanism with which to sign up people for Obama’s new healthcare mandate.