If HealthCare.GOV was HealthCare.COM The News Would Be Different

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Not a day has gone by since the official launch of Obamacare that I haven't heard or read some news about issues with the website. Usually multiple times a day. That's a lot considering I'm not a big news consumer. I might catch a bit of the evening news here and there, scan through the headlines on my phone's news app and a couple of times a week catch up with The Daily Show and Colbert Report online. Sometimes I have the TV on in the background while working or turn on 1010 WINS while having breakfast.

I have a lot of experience in web development and have been involved in product launches which causes me to find all the news very amusing.

Most of the criticism hasn't been about the plans or premiums except the major issue with President Obama claiming "If you like your plan you can keep it" which affects a small percent of's target consumers. That issue is being addressed though.

Most of the criticism I hear has to do with the performance of the website. How there are capacity issues causing people signing up. The website is slow, some people are seeing errors. Not enough people signing up.

These are important issues that need to be resolved because it's important that the people who need affordable health care get it. I'm not arguing against that but if you change things around and pretend was in the private sector what you would have is a widely successful product launch.

On the first day the site received millions of visitors. The Hill reported 4.7 million. The site currently (as of Dec 3) has an Alexa rank of 1,953. Alexa ranks the popularity of websites on the internet, a lower rank means more traffic. To put that in perspective the website of the leading private health insurer in the US, United Healthcare, has an Alexa rank of 31,052 and probably gets less than 100,000 visitors a day. Probably much less.

More people visit than visit the White House's website according to Alexa too.

With its current traffic could probably make anywhere between $1,000 - $2,000 a day through a contextual advertising service like Google's AdSense. Not that they would put advertising on the site, but just to give you an idea.

Politico reported on the number of people who have signed up for Obamacare. 26,000 signed up in October, 100,000 signed up in November and 29,000 people signed up in just the first two days of December!

How would that look if it was a private company?

Reuters reported that the average monthly premium on was $328. That means it arranged sales of $8.5 million in October and $32.8 million in November with December looking to be even bigger.

I looked around at some affiliate programs for insurance companies. That's when you help make a sale or generate a lead online the insurance company will give you money.

For high volume sites I've seen rates as high as $12 per quote request. I don't know how many quotes were issued but let's just pretend nobody else that enrolled applied, which is likely a vast understatement. If made money per lead it would have made $1.6 million in just over 2 months. If they were getting paid per enrollment it looks like affiliates pay around $40 per which would mean $6.2 million in revenue.

I site as big as this, if it were a private company, would have a pretty lucrative commission structure with its represented insurers which would mean greater revenue. Since premiums are monthly it's a big underestimate to just use the single monthly premium I did. but you get the picture.

When you look at a company like Twitter which recently became public they are valued at $23.85 Billion. In their last reported quarter Twitter had sales of $168.58 million with a net loss of $64.60 million.  Averaged per month is $42.13 million sales. isn't a for-profit business but I thought it might be worth looking at its launch a different way.

Right now, a majority of the people visiting the site are probably still reporters, bloggers, political rivals, their staff, readership, etc. People that aren't shopping for health insurance but instead are looking to see what the site is all about and some people to try to find issues with it. It makes sense that only 0.4% of people that visit the site would be interested in enrolling and it's not something that should reflect poorly on the site. A decent conversion rate for your average website would be around 5% and while 0.4% isn't great it's not bad considering the numbers of people that are just looking to see what everyone is talking about.

When the media frenzy dies down, traffic should fall to normal levels and along with the improvements being made, the people who need the site will have an easier time using it. Based on how enrolments keep increasing, it seems like that's already happening.

It's not uncommon to have issues with website launches and it's not every day that someone comes up with a website that is instantly as popular as (It didn't help that the contractors who built it didn't seem to have much experience building such large systems.) But it's up, it's working and even though there are some issues it's improving. That's how typical website roll-outs go.

The President didn't knock the ball out of the park, that's for sure, but he's at least on first base... not in the dugout packing up his gear and giving up. This is big. Change isn't always easy.

Can all the news people out there do me a little favor? Please start reporting on more important and substantive aspects of the Affordable Care Act (good and bad) instead of running around screaming "ZOMG OBAMA BROKE TEH INTERWEBZ!!!!!!!1"

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