What about an Obamacare API?

APIs are big news this week for the federal government. First we have the former U.S. CTO calling on APIs as a means to accelerate data sharing across agencies, and second we have a preview from NPR of what it might be like to actually sign-up for “Obamacare” insurance on October 1st. Why not make it easy for folks? Let’s push for an Obamacare API. Federal Seal - Obamacare APIThe NPR article implies homework involved, suggesting that applying for health insurance through the website would be closer to a root canal procedure rather than buying socks on Amazon.com.

Rather than publish and own the healthcare.gov website and the associated user-interface and portal, the federal government should follow in the steps of private industry and open an Obamacare API instead. With the proper API, platform providers could compete to become the best “health insurance portal” and provide a more usable website with an HTML5  or a native application that would improve  usability and accelerate adoption of “Obamacare” insurance. Technology should be an enabler, and a predictably unusable website is like an artificial speed limiter on your new Tesla model S.

The government isn’t in the business of providing the most usable interfaces, especially to normal humans, so why not create an incentive structure and the proper API to really improve the experience for consumers, bringing us ever-so-closer to that utopia of universal health care coverage?

Indeed this is the model followed by Blue-Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA), they used an API layer and SaaS developer portal to expose interfaces to ensure consistent health care information was made available to all  38 independent Blue-Cross-Blue-Shield agencies.

As for agency API sharing, this is a problem that we routinely solve with API Management. There is a well known api patterns for cloud & mobile that agencies can use to surface legacy XML feeds or unstructured data as first-class APIs and then make these APIs accessible from an API catalog accessible to developers. Oh, and one more thing: It’s not enough to simply publish the layer with consistent, secure interfaces, any API that sends or receives sensitive agency information and performs message level security needs the appropriate certifications and compliance posture. Agencies may need to ensure their API infrastructure is certified against common requirements such as  FIPS, Common Criteria and DoD certifications.

Are you an agency looking to publish an API and share data to citizens or other agencies? Need compliance and certificates? Need scale and reach? Mashery can help.

Blake Dournaee

About Blake Dournaee

Passionate, energetic product manager that lives at the intersection of business, innovation and technology. I currently work at Intel in the Datacenter Software Division working on products and technologies relating to mobile, APIs, cloud services and big data.

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