Obama to Part Ways With Healthcare.gov Architects

Posted: Jan 10, 2014 5:06 PM

The disastrous Healthcare.gov website - a failure from the start and still having massive problems - was primarily built by federal contractor CGI Federal. After the initial wave of outrage, the Obama Administration allowed CGI Federal t continue work on the sinking ship.

Today, however, the Obama Administration quietly severed ties with CGI Federal. The contractor's contract will not be renewed:

CGI Federal's current contract will not be renewed after February, a person familiar with the situation said Friday. The person requested anonymity because of federal rules regarding the privacy of contractors.

Instead, the administration intends to hire Accenture, a major technology consulting company, to run HealthCare.gov. The federal site serves 36 states.

As much as the Administration would like to believe that the problems with the website are fixed, health policy expert Bob Laszewski blew a hole in that with an interview with the Washington Post today:

Insurers are still seeing errors in probably 5 percent of the files coming through. That’s compounded by the issue of all the people enrolling in the last few weeks. That’s a huge surge that would create customer-service problems in the best of circumstances, So I think it’ll take until about the end of January till everyone is straightened out and where they should be.

There are some obvious errors you get and the insurer can go back to the customer and straighten them out. That’s a very laborious task. The other thing that the administration is doing is a manual reconciliation. There’s unfortunately no computerized check between who HealthCare.Gov thinks is enrolled and who the insurance industry’s computer systems think is enrolled. So it’s being done manually. That’s a big problem.

The other challenge now is getting people to pay for coverage. I was surprised today calling around to people to find only about 50 percent have paid. That’s not a reason to panic yet. The due dates for payment have been sliding all around, so people can be confused. But it can be a mess.

Whether or not a new federal contractor will be able to fix the mess that the Obama Administration condoned to this point is yet to be seen. But don't sugarcoat it: the whole law is still a mess, and it's going to get worse before it gets better.