Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Oracle, Google and Red Hat Engineers Ride to the Rescue of Health Care Site

Engineers from at least three major tech companies are said to be helping the federal government with its troubled health insurance website,

According to a Bloomberg report, at least three employees on leave from Google, Oracle and Red Hat are stepping in to help get the site up and running nearly a month after its disastrous launch.

One of those named is Michael Dickerson, a site reliability engineer at Google. According to his LinkedIn profile, he’s a seven-year veteran of Google who also spent five months working on the Obama campaign during the 2012 election. He’s on leave from Google, according to a person familiar with the situation.

A second engineer is Greg Gershman, whose LinkedIn profile lists him as the director of innovation at Mobomo, a Baltimore-based company that has built mobile apps for the U.S. Navy and NASA. He’s a former presidential innovation fellow who spent six months working on Project MyUSA, a site intended to “re-imagine the relationship between citizens and government through technology.”

The story didn’t name anyone from Oracle or Red Hat working on the effort, dubbed the “tech surge,” to try to get the site running properly. Stephanie Wonderlick, a spokeswoman for Red Hat, didn’t have any comment. Google had no comment.

Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle, one of the companies supplying the software underpinning the site, was asked about the effort at a shareholders meeting held today. “We think it’s our responsibility as a technology provider to serve all of our customers, and the government is one of our customers,” he said. “We are helping them in every way we can. I will refrain from editorial comments about what has happened there. I think most of us want to see our government operating effectively.” (Ellison’s comments are here at about the 1:15 mark during the Q&A portion of the meeting.)

The site has been plagued by availability problems from the start. And yesterday Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, apologized for the issues. What’s missing so far is a clear and precise explanation of what went wrong.

Whatever it is they’re doing, they better hurry. Those people who haven’t bought health insurance by March 31 are, under the terms of the Affordable Care Act, subject to fines.

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