Three twenty-something programmer dudes did something in three days that 55 U.S. government contractors couldn't do in more than 2 years: Build a workable healthcare.gov website.
HealthSherpa lets users quickly shop for health insurance plans by ZIP code, and calculates their federal tax subsidy eligibility. Unlike the federal and state exchange websites, the site does not force users to go through a lengthy sign up and application process to get their information. Instead, users can find what they need by clicking through a few clean, Google-like screens.
Nig Liang said he created the site with his friends George Kalogeropoulos and Michael Wasser, working part time in about three days. Their goal, he said, was to make Obamacare benefits easily understandable to consumers. Beyond hosting fees, the site cost next to nothing to build and maintain.
Unlike everyone else though, Liang said the HealthSherpa team does not wish to disparage the government's efforts.
"They did the hard part like pulling all the data together and coordinating all the state exchanges," he explained. "All we did was put a better face on what they've already done."
Liang, who met Kalogeropoulos and Wasser through a community of programmers, also said that the government's project had a lot of competing aspects, which could explain why the user interface got the short shrift.
He admitted HealthSherpa isn't perfect either. It doesn't calculate things like co-pays, maximum out-of-pocket expenses or deductibles. But Liang said those should be added by the end of the week.
The site has its share of minor glitches too, like not returning any info for certain ZIP codes. Liang said the threesome is focusing on fixing the errors.
"Every time someone sends us a comment we correct it as fast as we can," Liang said. "We're working around the clock to get things right."
So far, no one from healthcare.gov has reached out to ask the trio for advice. Liang said. But the site, which went up last week, has already racked up more than 1,500 mostly satisfied customers.