Loren Yu was on a weekend trip in Los Angeles when he received an urgent email from a friend. The friend, Kalvin Wang, had a proposition.
"If your response isn’t ‘no way,’ then we should talk ASAP, like tomorrow," Wang wrote.
At the time, Yu was working for an education startup in New York called SkillShare. SkillShare had two technical employees. Yu was one of them. Wang’s proposal would take him away from the young company, but there was little question what choice Yu would make. A week later, he was on a train to Baltimore.
Yu had decided to join Wang on a small team of designers and developers trying to save Healthcare.gov.
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Other stories have been told about the website so bad it nearly broke the Affordable Care Act. The Obama administration was "running the biggest start-up in the world, and they didn’t have anyone who had run a start-up, or even run a business," David Cutler, a health adviser to Obama’s 2008 campaign, told The Washington Post in 2013. “It’s very hard to think of a situation where the people best at getting legislation passed are best at implementing it. They are a different set of skills.”
Yet it’s hard to overstate just how dismal the website was. The site’s login system—the software which accepted usernames, passwords, and was used by every health-insurance applicant—had a 91 percent uptime rate. Imagine if Google.com randomly stopped returning search requests for two hours, every day, and you would be imagining a more reliable website than the one that the Obama administration introduced. On Healthcare.gov’s first day, six people successfully used it to sign up for health insurance.