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Crashing Websites, Grumbling Users: Obamacare's Debut Is a Typical Tech Launch

The insurance-exchange Internet site on Oct. 1
The insurance-exchange Internet site on Oct. 1Photograph by Karen Bleier/AFP via Getty Images

In the run-up to Tuesday’s launch of public health-insurance exchanges across the U.S., the Obama administration talked about its signature domestic achievement as though it were a product launch out of Silicon Valley. Eventually, government officials assured Americans, buying health insurance will be as easy as shopping on Kayak or Amazon. The analogy suggested that this morning’s online-exchange debut marks a kind of public beta period familiar from the world of tech startups: An unfinished product is launched and improved on the fly as early adopters suffer through and expose the initial flaws in the system.

“Hopefully they’ll give us the same slack as they give Apple,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters in the run-up to the launch.