It seems like a long time since Vice President Joe Biden whispered a bit too loudly to President Barack Obama that his imminent signing of the 2010 Affordable Care Act was "a big f---ing deal."
Biden was right -- it was big then, and is even bigger more than three years later. However, most of the talk today is about problems with Obama's signature health care reforms that are emboldening hyper-partisan critics on the political right and raising public doubts about the system's viability.
How could it be that the administration, with so much time to implement the overhaul the health insurance overhaul, ended up botching the roll out of the most controversial provision -- the individual mandate requiring people to obtain coverage or face a fine.
Some reasons are political and others are technical, but all point to a mix of presidential over-promising, rabid political opposition and the arcane contracting process used by the government to choose which companies got the job of devising a website enrollment system unprecedented in its size and complexity.
Here is a look at how we got here:
1) Water drop torture
The health care reforms were signed into law more than three years ago, so why are we still fixated on their implementation? Because of the incremental process of starting up the vast program intended to expand health coverage to tens of millions of uninsured people.
It was never going to be easy, but waiting for the system to come into full operation made it more vulnerable to a negative reaction.
Now Republican critics wonder how the administration could get it so wrong after having so much time to prepare.
"God only knows how much money they've spent and it's a failure," Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday on the CBS program "Face the Nation." "You know, the government simply isn't going to be able to get this job done correctly."
Obama said Monday that "the essence of the law" -- aimed at providing access to health insurance for the roughly 48 million Americans without it -- "is working just fine."
"In some cases, actually, it's exceeding expectations. The prices are lower than expected, and the choice is greater than we expected," he said of the market exchanges that came on line on October 1.
The problem, he said, was "the website that's supposed to make it easy to apply for and purchase the insurance is not working the way it should for everybody."
"There's no sugarcoating it. The website has been too slow. People are getting stuck during the application process," Obama continued, taking a shot at the law's critics by adding: "It's time for folks to stop rooting for its failure, because hard working middle-class families are rooting for its success."
2) Website woes
There are problems -- major ones -- with Healthcare.gov. While initial difficulties in logging in appear to be easing, tech experts say the use of multiple contractors to develop different aspects of the system appears to have resulted in a lack of compatibility between the different components.
A former member of Obama's technology team said Healthcare.gov was created by a "sloppy" team of contractors who were selected through a flawed federal procurement process.
Clay Johnson, who served for six months as a Presidential Innovation Fellow beginning in August 2012, wrote in a blog post on October 7 that signs of flaws on the website were apparent from the day it went online, including the use of placeholder text in the site's code.
In an interview with CNN, Johnson said the federal government is increasingly relying on a shrinking list of preferred contractors for its technology work in a process that is producing lackluster outcomes.
"There's been a consolidation of incumbent vendors and they've gotten lazy as a result," Johnson told CNN. "They haven't kept up with the market."
On Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that a trial run of Healthcare.gov days before its launch crashed the site with a just a few hundred users online.
Despite the problems, federal health officials proceeded with the planned rollout, according to the newspaper.
The result? The website crashed shortly after midnight as several thousand people tried to start the process, two people familiar with the project told the Post.
Later this week, three of the contractors responsible for the website - CGI, Serco, and Equifax -- will testify before a congressional committee about problems on the site.
In a statement, CGI said it and other contractors "are working around the clock for the improvement of HealthCare.gov, a system that is complex, ambitious and unprecedented."