HEALTH IT

CMS taps 'general contractor' to over see HealthCare.gov fixes

 

EDITOR's NOTE: A version of this story originally appeared on FCW.com.

Quality Software Services Inc. has been tapped by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare to act as a general contractor overseeing the fixes of the troubled HealthCare.gov website.

CMS had perviously been acting as its own systems integrator and QSSI was one of the contractors working for it. QSSI was responsible for building the data hub that connects information from a variety of government agencies to determine applicants' eligibility for insurance under the 2010 health care law. The company also built a component of the HealthCare.gov's identity management tool.

Jeffrey Zients, the Obama administration insider tapped as the fixer for HealthCare.gov, told reporters on Friday that most of the problems plaguing the online service will be ironed out by the end of next month.

"It will take a lot of work. A lot of problems need to be addressed. But let me be clear: HealthCare.gov is fixable," said Zients, a management consultant and former acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, on a conference call with reporters Oct. 25. "By the end of November, HealthCare.gov will work smoothly for the vast majority of users."

A review of the site, dubbed a "tech surge" by the administration, uncovered dozens of issues, which Zients described as performance problems that affected site speed and response time, and software bugs that prevented the system from working as designed. The team behind the surge created a "punch list" of fixes that QSSI is charged with implementing.

At the top of the list is fixing the problems on the back end of the system that affect delivery of enrollment forms to insurance carriers. Reports vary on the extent of the problems. At a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing Oct. 24, Cheryl Campbell, senior vice president of HealthCare.gov contractor CGI Federal, said the problems were isolated. Industry sources, however, have told reporters that the problems are pervasive.

CMS will modify QSSI's contract to include its new role as general contractor. So far, QSSI has received $85 million for its work on the data hub, which largely performed as desired, and for other pieces of HealthCare.gov, including an identity management tool that was not built to accommodate the volume of registrations the site received as soon as it was launched.

Some of that high registration volume is attributed to a decision made two weeks before the open-enrollment date of Oct. 1 to require completed registrations before users could compare plans' costs and benefits. The administration has yet to disclose who made that decision and why -- and it has become a sticking point among critics of the law, who suspect it was done to hide pricing information from prospective customers.

Some improvements have already been implemented, Zients said, mostly relating to site performance. About 90 percent of users can create accounts, although the process of determining eligibility for a subsidy remains "volatile," he added, with only about one-third of applicants getting through to the end of the process. There is still no word on how many completed applications have resulted in purchased insurance policies. Officials have promised to release that information in early November.

So far, the federally facilitated exchanges run by HealthCare.gov have processed about half of the 700,000 applications for coverage. The rest were processed in the health insurance marketplaces operated by 14 states and the District of Columbia.

Reader Comments

Wed, Oct 30, 2013

Use same contractor to over view system fixes that introduced security breaches into CMS? Sounds good to me? https://oig.hhs.gov/oas/reports/region4/41205045.pdf

Mon, Oct 28, 2013

So now they can hang QSS for future problems?

Sun, Oct 27, 2013 Know it all

Zienst is a smart guy, but he's outsmarted himself by using the term General Contractor. People will think of the guy who added a bathroom or addition to their house, not a prime contractor. The government is not letting QSSI be prime. The government remains the prime, and the GC label is just to confuse people and throw the Congress, the taxpayers and the "media" off the scent, and that is pretty easy to do.

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