AM 720 KDWN
News, Traffic, Weather

Probe exposes flaws behind HealthCare.gov rollout

KDWN

WASHINGTON (AP) — Management failures by the Obama administration set the stage for computer woes that paralyzed the president’s new health care program last fall, nonpartisan investigators said in a report released Wednesday.

While the administration was publicly assuring consumers that they would soon have seamless online access to health insurance, a chaotic procurement process was about to deliver a stumbling start.

After a months-long investigation, the Government Accountability Office found that the administration lacked “effective planning or oversight practices” for the development of HealthCare.gov, the portal for millions of uninsured Americans.

As a result the government incurred “significant cost increases, schedule slips and delayed system functionality,” William Woods, a GAO contracting expert, said in testimony prepared for a hearing Thursday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. GAO is the nonpartisan investigative agency of Congress.

Spokesman Aaron Albright said the administration takes its responsibility for contract oversight seriously and has already started carrying out improvements that go beyond GAO’s recommendations. The congressional investigators recommended a cost control plan and other changes to establish clear procedures and improve oversight.

But Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, one of the lawmakers who requested the investigation, said “millions of taxpayer dollars were wasted to build a website that didn’t work, all because of bureaucratic incompetence.”

Investigators found that the administration kept changing the contractors’ marching orders for the HealthCare.gov website, creating widespread confusion and adding tens of millions of dollars in costs. Changes were ordered seemingly willy-nilly, including 40 times when government officials did not have the initial authority to incur additional costs.

The report faults the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service for ineffective oversight. Known as CMS, the agency is part of the Department of Health and Human Services and was designated to administer Obama’s health care law.

GAO concluded:

- Contractors were not given a coherent plan, and instead jumped around from issue to issue.

- The cost of a glitchy computerized sign-up system for consumers ballooned from $56 million to more than $209 million from Sept. 2011 to Feb. 2014. The cost of the electronic backroom for verifying applicants’ information jumped from $30 million to almost $85 million.

- CMS, representing the administration, failed to follow up on how well the contractors performed.

-A third contract, for fixes to the website, grew from $91 million in January to $175 million as of last month.

Two contractors initially took the lead building the system:

Virginia-based CGI Federal built HealthCare.gov, the consumer-facing portal to subsidized private coverage for the uninsured. The site serves 36 states, while the remaining states built their own systems, with mixed results.

QSSI, based in Maryland, was responsible for an electronic back office that helps verify personal and financial information to determine whether consumers are eligible for tax credits to help pay their premiums.

The consumer end of the system locked up the day it was launched, Oct. 1, and was down most of that initial month. The electronic back office had fewer problems.

A few months before the launch, the CMS agency notified CGI it was so dissatisfied that it would start withholding payments. Then it rescinded that decision.

CMS ultimately paid nearly all of CGI’s $12.5 million in fees, withholding only $267,000, the report said. The agency later ended its contract with CGI. Another contractor, Accenture, was brought in to make website fixes.

Confronted with a public relations disaster, the White House sent in a troubleshooter, management consultant Jeff Zients. He removed CMS as project leader, relegating it to a supporting role.

CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner later personally apologized to Congress saying that “the website has not worked as well as it should.”

Zients’ rescue operation got the site working by early December. Eventually, some 8 million people managed to sign up, far exceeding expectations.

Nonetheless, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stepped down amid complaints by White House officials that the president was blind-sided by the problems.

The original contractors testified to Congress that they did not have nearly enough time to test the system before it went live.

Indeed, Tavenner took the unusual step of signing the operational security certificate for HealthCare.gov herself, after CMS security professionals balked. The site has since passed full security testing.

The GAO’s findings added to earlier conclusions in a report by Zients after his team got the website to work.

Beyond a maze of technical problems, Zients said he found “inadequate management oversight and coordination” that “prevented real-time decision making and efficient responses.”

Obama has already weathered the worst storms from the bungled health care launch, so the report is unlikely to create major political problems for the White House and Democrats generally.

But it does shine a light on what was going on behind the scenes even as administration officials fostered the impression that signing up for health care would be simple, like shopping online.

Online:

GAO report: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-694

Probe exposes flaws behind HealthCare.gov rollout

KDWN

WASHINGTON (AP) — Management failures by the Obama administration set the stage for computer woes that paralyzed the president’s new health care program last fall, nonpartisan investigators said in a report released Wednesday.

While the administration was publicly assuring consumers that they would soon have seamless online access to health insurance, a chaotic procurement process was about to deliver a stumbling start.

After a months-long investigation, the Government Accountability Office found that the administration lacked “effective planning or oversight practices” for the development of HealthCare.gov, the portal for millions of uninsured Americans.

As a result the government incurred “significant cost increases, schedule slips and delayed system functionality,” William Woods, a GAO contracting expert, said in testimony prepared for a hearing Thursday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. GAO is the nonpartisan investigative agency of Congress.

Spokesman Aaron Albright said the administration takes its responsibility for contract oversight seriously and has already started carrying out improvements that go beyond GAO’s recommendations. The congressional investigators recommended a cost control plan and other changes to establish clear procedures and improve oversight.

But Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, one of the lawmakers who requested the investigation, said “millions of taxpayer dollars were wasted to build a website that didn’t work, all because of bureaucratic incompetence.”

Investigators found that the administration kept changing the contractors’ marching orders for the HealthCare.gov website, creating widespread confusion and adding tens of millions of dollars in costs. Changes were ordered seemingly willy-nilly, including 40 times when government officials did not have the initial authority to incur additional costs.

The report faults the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service for ineffective oversight. Known as CMS, the agency is part of the Department of Health and Human Services and was designated to administer Obama’s health care law.

GAO concluded:

- Contractors were not given a coherent plan, and instead jumped around from issue to issue.

- The cost of a glitchy computerized sign-up system for consumers ballooned from $56 million to more than $209 million from Sept. 2011 to Feb. 2014. The cost of the electronic backroom for verifying applicants’ information jumped from $30 million to almost $85 million.

- CMS, representing the administration, failed to follow up on how well the contractors performed.

-A third contract, for fixes to the website, grew from $91 million in January to $175 million as of last month.

Two contractors initially took the lead building the system:

Virginia-based CGI Federal built HealthCare.gov, the consumer-facing portal to subsidized private coverage for the uninsured. The site serves 36 states, while the remaining states built their own systems, with mixed results.

QSSI, based in Maryland, was responsible for an electronic back office that helps verify personal and financial information to determine whether consumers are eligible for tax credits to help pay their premiums.

The consumer end of the system locked up the day it was launched, Oct. 1, and was down most of that initial month. The electronic back office had fewer problems.

A few months before the launch, the CMS agency notified CGI it was so dissatisfied that it would start withholding payments. Then it rescinded that decision.

CMS ultimately paid nearly all of CGI’s $12.5 million in fees, withholding only $267,000, the report said. The agency later ended its contract with CGI. Another contractor, Accenture, was brought in to make website fixes.

Confronted with a public relations disaster, the White House sent in a troubleshooter, management consultant Jeff Zients. He removed CMS as project leader, relegating it to a supporting role.

CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner later personally apologized to Congress saying that “the website has not worked as well as it should.”

Zients’ rescue operation got the site working by early December. Eventually, some 8 million people managed to sign up, far exceeding expectations.

Nonetheless, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stepped down amid complaints by White House officials that the president was blind-sided by the problems.

The original contractors testified to Congress that they did not have nearly enough time to test the system before it went live.

Indeed, Tavenner took the unusual step of signing the operational security certificate for HealthCare.gov herself, after CMS security professionals balked. The site has since passed full security testing.

The GAO’s findings added to earlier conclusions in a report by Zients after his team got the website to work.

Beyond a maze of technical problems, Zients said he found “inadequate management oversight and coordination” that “prevented real-time decision making and efficient responses.”

Obama has already weathered the worst storms from the bungled health care launch, so the report is unlikely to create major political problems for the White House and Democrats generally.

But it does shine a light on what was going on behind the scenes even as administration officials fostered the impression that signing up for health care would be simple, like shopping online.

Online:

GAO report: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-694

Probe exposes flaws behind HealthCare.gov rollout

KDWN

WASHINGTON (AP) — Management failures by the Obama administration set the stage for computer woes that paralyzed the president’s new health care program last fall, nonpartisan investigators said in a report released Wednesday.

While the administration was publicly assuring consumers that they would soon have seamless online access to health insurance, a chaotic procurement process was about to deliver a stumbling start.

After a months-long investigation, the Government Accountability Office found that the administration lacked “effective planning or oversight practices” for the development of HealthCare.gov, the portal for millions of uninsured Americans.

As a result the government incurred “significant cost increases, schedule slips and delayed system functionality,” William Woods, a GAO contracting expert, said in testimony prepared for a hearing Thursday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. GAO is the nonpartisan investigative agency of Congress.

Spokesman Aaron Albright said the administration takes its responsibility for contract oversight seriously and has already started carrying out improvements that go beyond GAO’s recommendations. The congressional investigators recommended a cost control plan and other changes to establish clear procedures and improve oversight.

But Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, one of the lawmakers who requested the investigation, said “millions of taxpayer dollars were wasted to build a website that didn’t work, all because of bureaucratic incompetence.”

Investigators found that the administration kept changing the contractors’ marching orders for the HealthCare.gov website, creating widespread confusion and adding tens of millions of dollars in costs. Changes were ordered seemingly willy-nilly, including 40 times when government officials did not have the initial authority to incur additional costs.

The report faults the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service for ineffective oversight. Known as CMS, the agency is part of the Department of Health and Human Services and was designated to administer Obama’s health care law.

GAO concluded:

- Contractors were not given a coherent plan, and instead jumped around from issue to issue.

- The cost of a glitchy computerized sign-up system for consumers ballooned from $56 million to more than $209 million from Sept. 2011 to Feb. 2014. The cost of the electronic backroom for verifying applicants’ information jumped from $30 million to almost $85 million.

- CMS, representing the administration, failed to follow up on how well the contractors performed.

-A third contract, for fixes to the website, grew from $91 million in January to $175 million as of last month.

Two contractors initially took the lead building the system:

Virginia-based CGI Federal built HealthCare.gov, the consumer-facing portal to subsidized private coverage for the uninsured. The site serves 36 states, while the remaining states built their own systems, with mixed results.

QSSI, based in Maryland, was responsible for an electronic back office that helps verify personal and financial information to determine whether consumers are eligible for tax credits to help pay their premiums.

The consumer end of the system locked up the day it was launched, Oct. 1, and was down most of that initial month. The electronic back office had fewer problems.

A few months before the launch, the CMS agency notified CGI it was so dissatisfied that it would start withholding payments. Then it rescinded that decision.

CMS ultimately paid nearly all of CGI’s $12.5 million in fees, withholding only $267,000, the report said. The agency later ended its contract with CGI. Another contractor, Accenture, was brought in to make website fixes.

Confronted with a public relations disaster, the White House sent in a troubleshooter, management consultant Jeff Zients. He removed CMS as project leader, relegating it to a supporting role.

CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner later personally apologized to Congress saying that “the website has not worked as well as it should.”

Zients’ rescue operation got the site working by early December. Eventually, some 8 million people managed to sign up, far exceeding expectations.

Nonetheless, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stepped down amid complaints by White House officials that the president was blind-sided by the problems.

The original contractors testified to Congress that they did not have nearly enough time to test the system before it went live.

Indeed, Tavenner took the unusual step of signing the operational security certificate for HealthCare.gov herself, after CMS security professionals balked. The site has since passed full security testing.

The GAO’s findings added to earlier conclusions in a report by Zients after his team got the website to work.

Beyond a maze of technical problems, Zients said he found “inadequate management oversight and coordination” that “prevented real-time decision making and efficient responses.”

Obama has already weathered the worst storms from the bungled health care launch, so the report is unlikely to create major political problems for the White House and Democrats generally.

But it does shine a light on what was going on behind the scenes even as administration officials fostered the impression that signing up for health care would be simple, like shopping online.

Online:

GAO report: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-694

Probe exposes flaws behind HealthCare.gov rollout

KDWN

WASHINGTON (AP) — Management failures by the Obama administration set the stage for computer woes that paralyzed the president’s new health care program last fall, nonpartisan investigators said in a report released Wednesday.

While the administration was publicly assuring consumers that they would soon have seamless online access to health insurance, a chaotic procurement process was about to deliver a stumbling start.

After a months-long investigation, the Government Accountability Office found that the administration lacked “effective planning or oversight practices” for the development of HealthCare.gov, the portal for millions of uninsured Americans.

As a result the government incurred “significant cost increases, schedule slips and delayed system functionality,” William Woods, a GAO contracting expert, said in testimony prepared for a hearing Thursday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. GAO is the nonpartisan investigative agency of Congress.

Spokesman Aaron Albright said the administration takes its responsibility for contract oversight seriously and has already started carrying out improvements that go beyond GAO’s recommendations. The congressional investigators recommended a cost control plan and other changes to establish clear procedures and improve oversight.

But Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, one of the lawmakers who requested the investigation, said “millions of taxpayer dollars were wasted to build a website that didn’t work, all because of bureaucratic incompetence.”

Investigators found that the administration kept changing the contractors’ marching orders for the HealthCare.gov website, creating widespread confusion and adding tens of millions of dollars in costs. Changes were ordered seemingly willy-nilly, including 40 times when government officials did not have the initial authority to incur additional costs.

The report faults the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service for ineffective oversight. Known as CMS, the agency is part of the Department of Health and Human Services and was designated to administer Obama’s health care law.

GAO concluded:

- Contractors were not given a coherent plan, and instead jumped around from issue to issue.

- The cost of a glitchy computerized sign-up system for consumers ballooned from $56 million to more than $209 million from Sept. 2011 to Feb. 2014. The cost of the electronic backroom for verifying applicants’ information jumped from $30 million to almost $85 million.

- CMS, representing the administration, failed to follow up on how well the contractors performed.

-A third contract, for fixes to the website, grew from $91 million in January to $175 million as of last month.

Two contractors initially took the lead building the system:

Virginia-based CGI Federal built HealthCare.gov, the consumer-facing portal to subsidized private coverage for the uninsured. The site serves 36 states, while the remaining states built their own systems, with mixed results.

QSSI, based in Maryland, was responsible for an electronic back office that helps verify personal and financial information to determine whether consumers are eligible for tax credits to help pay their premiums.

The consumer end of the system locked up the day it was launched, Oct. 1, and was down most of that initial month. The electronic back office had fewer problems.

A few months before the launch, the CMS agency notified CGI it was so dissatisfied that it would start withholding payments. Then it rescinded that decision.

CMS ultimately paid nearly all of CGI’s $12.5 million in fees, withholding only $267,000, the report said. The agency later ended its contract with CGI. Another contractor, Accenture, was brought in to make website fixes.

Confronted with a public relations disaster, the White House sent in a troubleshooter, management consultant Jeff Zients. He removed CMS as project leader, relegating it to a supporting role.

CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner later personally apologized to Congress saying that “the website has not worked as well as it should.”

Zients’ rescue operation got the site working by early December. Eventually, some 8 million people managed to sign up, far exceeding expectations.

Nonetheless, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stepped down amid complaints by White House officials that the president was blind-sided by the problems.

The original contractors testified to Congress that they did not have nearly enough time to test the system before it went live.

Indeed, Tavenner took the unusual step of signing the operational security certificate for HealthCare.gov herself, after CMS security professionals balked. The site has since passed full security testing.

The GAO’s findings added to earlier conclusions in a report by Zients after his team got the website to work.

Beyond a maze of technical problems, Zients said he found “inadequate management oversight and coordination” that “prevented real-time decision making and efficient responses.”

Obama has already weathered the worst storms from the bungled health care launch, so the report is unlikely to create major political problems for the White House and Democrats generally.

But it does shine a light on what was going on behind the scenes even as administration officials fostered the impression that signing up for health care would be simple, like shopping online.

Online:

GAO report: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-694

Probe exposes flaws behind HealthCare.gov rollout

KDWN

WASHINGTON (AP) — Management failures by the Obama administration set the stage for computer woes that paralyzed the president’s new health care program last fall, nonpartisan investigators said in a report released Wednesday.

While the administration was publicly assuring consumers that they would soon have seamless online access to health insurance, a chaotic procurement process was about to deliver a stumbling start.

After a months-long investigation, the Government Accountability Office found that the administration lacked “effective planning or oversight practices” for the development of HealthCare.gov, the portal for millions of uninsured Americans.

As a result the government incurred “significant cost increases, schedule slips and delayed system functionality,” William Woods, a GAO contracting expert, said in testimony prepared for a hearing Thursday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. GAO is the nonpartisan investigative agency of Congress.

Spokesman Aaron Albright said the administration takes its responsibility for contract oversight seriously and has already started carrying out improvements that go beyond GAO’s recommendations. The congressional investigators recommended a cost control plan and other changes to establish clear procedures and improve oversight.

But Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, one of the lawmakers who requested the investigation, said “millions of taxpayer dollars were wasted to build a website that didn’t work, all because of bureaucratic incompetence.”

Investigators found that the administration kept changing the contractors’ marching orders for the HealthCare.gov website, creating widespread confusion and adding tens of millions of dollars in costs. Changes were ordered seemingly willy-nilly, including 40 times when government officials did not have the initial authority to incur additional costs.

The report faults the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service for ineffective oversight. Known as CMS, the agency is part of the Department of Health and Human Services and was designated to administer Obama’s health care law.

GAO concluded:

- Contractors were not given a coherent plan, and instead jumped around from issue to issue.

- The cost of a glitchy computerized sign-up system for consumers ballooned from $56 million to more than $209 million from Sept. 2011 to Feb. 2014. The cost of the electronic backroom for verifying applicants’ information jumped from $30 million to almost $85 million.

- CMS, representing the administration, failed to follow up on how well the contractors performed.

-A third contract, for fixes to the website, grew from $91 million in January to $175 million as of last month.

Two contractors initially took the lead building the system:

Virginia-based CGI Federal built HealthCare.gov, the consumer-facing portal to subsidized private coverage for the uninsured. The site serves 36 states, while the remaining states built their own systems, with mixed results.

QSSI, based in Maryland, was responsible for an electronic back office that helps verify personal and financial information to determine whether consumers are eligible for tax credits to help pay their premiums.

The consumer end of the system locked up the day it was launched, Oct. 1, and was down most of that initial month. The electronic back office had fewer problems.

A few months before the launch, the CMS agency notified CGI it was so dissatisfied that it would start withholding payments. Then it rescinded that decision.

CMS ultimately paid nearly all of CGI’s $12.5 million in fees, withholding only $267,000, the report said. The agency later ended its contract with CGI. Another contractor, Accenture, was brought in to make website fixes.

Confronted with a public relations disaster, the White House sent in a troubleshooter, management consultant Jeff Zients. He removed CMS as project leader, relegating it to a supporting role.

CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner later personally apologized to Congress saying that “the website has not worked as well as it should.”

Zients’ rescue operation got the site working by early December. Eventually, some 8 million people managed to sign up, far exceeding expectations.

Nonetheless, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stepped down amid complaints by White House officials that the president was blind-sided by the problems.

The original contractors testified to Congress that they did not have nearly enough time to test the system before it went live.

Indeed, Tavenner took the unusual step of signing the operational security certificate for HealthCare.gov herself, after CMS security professionals balked. The site has since passed full security testing.

The GAO’s findings added to earlier conclusions in a report by Zients after his team got the website to work.

Beyond a maze of technical problems, Zients said he found “inadequate management oversight and coordination” that “prevented real-time decision making and efficient responses.”

Obama has already weathered the worst storms from the bungled health care launch, so the report is unlikely to create major political problems for the White House and Democrats generally.

But it does shine a light on what was going on behind the scenes even as administration officials fostered the impression that signing up for health care would be simple, like shopping online.

Online:

GAO report: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-694

Probe exposes flaws behind HealthCare.gov rollout

KDWN

WASHINGTON (AP) — Management failures by the Obama administration set the stage for computer woes that paralyzed the president’s new health care program last fall, nonpartisan investigators said in a report released Wednesday.

While the administration was publicly assuring consumers that they would soon have seamless online access to health insurance, a chaotic procurement process was about to deliver a stumbling start.

After a months-long investigation, the Government Accountability Office found that the administration lacked “effective planning or oversight practices” for the development of HealthCare.gov, the portal for millions of uninsured Americans.

As a result the government incurred “significant cost increases, schedule slips and delayed system functionality,” William Woods, a GAO contracting expert, said in testimony prepared for a hearing Thursday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. GAO is the nonpartisan investigative agency of Congress.

Spokesman Aaron Albright said the administration takes its responsibility for contract oversight seriously and has already started carrying out improvements that go beyond GAO’s recommendations. The congressional investigators recommended a cost control plan and other changes to establish clear procedures and improve oversight.

But Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, one of the lawmakers who requested the investigation, said “millions of taxpayer dollars were wasted to build a website that didn’t work, all because of bureaucratic incompetence.”

Investigators found that the administration kept changing the contractors’ marching orders for the HealthCare.gov website, creating widespread confusion and adding tens of millions of dollars in costs. Changes were ordered seemingly willy-nilly, including 40 times when government officials did not have the initial authority to incur additional costs.

The report faults the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service for ineffective oversight. Known as CMS, the agency is part of the Department of Health and Human Services and was designated to administer Obama’s health care law.

GAO concluded:

- Contractors were not given a coherent plan, and instead jumped around from issue to issue.

- The cost of a glitchy computerized sign-up system for consumers ballooned from $56 million to more than $209 million from Sept. 2011 to Feb. 2014. The cost of the electronic backroom for verifying applicants’ information jumped from $30 million to almost $85 million.

- CMS, representing the administration, failed to follow up on how well the contractors performed.

-A third contract, for fixes to the website, grew from $91 million in January to $175 million as of last month.

Two contractors initially took the lead building the system:

Virginia-based CGI Federal built HealthCare.gov, the consumer-facing portal to subsidized private coverage for the uninsured. The site serves 36 states, while the remaining states built their own systems, with mixed results.

QSSI, based in Maryland, was responsible for an electronic back office that helps verify personal and financial information to determine whether consumers are eligible for tax credits to help pay their premiums.

The consumer end of the system locked up the day it was launched, Oct. 1, and was down most of that initial month. The electronic back office had fewer problems.

A few months before the launch, the CMS agency notified CGI it was so dissatisfied that it would start withholding payments. Then it rescinded that decision.

CMS ultimately paid nearly all of CGI’s $12.5 million in fees, withholding only $267,000, the report said. The agency later ended its contract with CGI. Another contractor, Accenture, was brought in to make website fixes.

Confronted with a public relations disaster, the White House sent in a troubleshooter, management consultant Jeff Zients. He removed CMS as project leader, relegating it to a supporting role.

CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner later personally apologized to Congress saying that “the website has not worked as well as it should.”

Zients’ rescue operation got the site working by early December. Eventually, some 8 million people managed to sign up, far exceeding expectations.

Nonetheless, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stepped down amid complaints by White House officials that the president was blind-sided by the problems.

The original contractors testified to Congress that they did not have nearly enough time to test the system before it went live.

Indeed, Tavenner took the unusual step of signing the operational security certificate for HealthCare.gov herself, after CMS security professionals balked. The site has since passed full security testing.

The GAO’s findings added to earlier conclusions in a report by Zients after his team got the website to work.

Beyond a maze of technical problems, Zients said he found “inadequate management oversight and coordination” that “prevented real-time decision making and efficient responses.”

Obama has already weathered the worst storms from the bungled health care launch, so the report is unlikely to create major political problems for the White House and Democrats generally.

But it does shine a light on what was going on behind the scenes even as administration officials fostered the impression that signing up for health care would be simple, like shopping online.

Online:

GAO report: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-694

Probe exposes flaws behind HealthCare.gov rollout

KDWN

WASHINGTON (AP) — Management failures by the Obama administration set the stage for computer woes that paralyzed the president’s new health care program last fall, nonpartisan investigators said in a report released Wednesday.

While the administration was publicly assuring consumers that they would soon have seamless online access to health insurance, a chaotic procurement process was about to deliver a stumbling start.

After a months-long investigation, the Government Accountability Office found that the administration lacked “effective planning or oversight practices” for the development of HealthCare.gov, the portal for millions of uninsured Americans.

As a result the government incurred “significant cost increases, schedule slips and delayed system functionality,” William Woods, a GAO contracting expert, said in testimony prepared for a hearing Thursday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. GAO is the nonpartisan investigative agency of Congress.

Spokesman Aaron Albright said the administration takes its responsibility for contract oversight seriously and has already started carrying out improvements that go beyond GAO’s recommendations. The congressional investigators recommended a cost control plan and other changes to establish clear procedures and improve oversight.

But Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, one of the lawmakers who requested the investigation, said “millions of taxpayer dollars were wasted to build a website that didn’t work, all because of bureaucratic incompetence.”

Investigators found that the administration kept changing the contractors’ marching orders for the HealthCare.gov website, creating widespread confusion and adding tens of millions of dollars in costs. Changes were ordered seemingly willy-nilly, including 40 times when government officials did not have the initial authority to incur additional costs.

The report faults the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service for ineffective oversight. Known as CMS, the agency is part of the Department of Health and Human Services and was designated to administer Obama’s health care law.

GAO concluded:

- Contractors were not given a coherent plan, and instead jumped around from issue to issue.

- The cost of a glitchy computerized sign-up system for consumers ballooned from $56 million to more than $209 million from Sept. 2011 to Feb. 2014. The cost of the electronic backroom for verifying applicants’ information jumped from $30 million to almost $85 million.

- CMS, representing the administration, failed to follow up on how well the contractors performed.

-A third contract, for fixes to the website, grew from $91 million in January to $175 million as of last month.

Two contractors initially took the lead building the system:

Virginia-based CGI Federal built HealthCare.gov, the consumer-facing portal to subsidized private coverage for the uninsured. The site serves 36 states, while the remaining states built their own systems, with mixed results.

QSSI, based in Maryland, was responsible for an electronic back office that helps verify personal and financial information to determine whether consumers are eligible for tax credits to help pay their premiums.

The consumer end of the system locked up the day it was launched, Oct. 1, and was down most of that initial month. The electronic back office had fewer problems.

A few months before the launch, the CMS agency notified CGI it was so dissatisfied that it would start withholding payments. Then it rescinded that decision.

CMS ultimately paid nearly all of CGI’s $12.5 million in fees, withholding only $267,000, the report said. The agency later ended its contract with CGI. Another contractor, Accenture, was brought in to make website fixes.

Confronted with a public relations disaster, the White House sent in a troubleshooter, management consultant Jeff Zients. He removed CMS as project leader, relegating it to a supporting role.

CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner later personally apologized to Congress saying that “the website has not worked as well as it should.”

Zients’ rescue operation got the site working by early December. Eventually, some 8 million people managed to sign up, far exceeding expectations.

Nonetheless, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stepped down amid complaints by White House officials that the president was blind-sided by the problems.

The original contractors testified to Congress that they did not have nearly enough time to test the system before it went live.

Indeed, Tavenner took the unusual step of signing the operational security certificate for HealthCare.gov herself, after CMS security professionals balked. The site has since passed full security testing.

The GAO’s findings added to earlier conclusions in a report by Zients after his team got the website to work.

Beyond a maze of technical problems, Zients said he found “inadequate management oversight and coordination” that “prevented real-time decision making and efficient responses.”

Obama has already weathered the worst storms from the bungled health care launch, so the report is unlikely to create major political problems for the White House and Democrats generally.

But it does shine a light on what was going on behind the scenes even as administration officials fostered the impression that signing up for health care would be simple, like shopping online.

Online:

GAO report: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-694

Probe exposes flaws behind HealthCare.gov rollout

KDWN

WASHINGTON (AP) — Management failures by the Obama administration set the stage for computer woes that paralyzed the president’s new health care program last fall, nonpartisan investigators said in a report released Wednesday.

While the administration was publicly assuring consumers that they would soon have seamless online access to health insurance, a chaotic procurement process was about to deliver a stumbling start.

After a months-long investigation, the Government Accountability Office found that the administration lacked “effective planning or oversight practices” for the development of HealthCare.gov, the portal for millions of uninsured Americans.

As a result the government incurred “significant cost increases, schedule slips and delayed system functionality,” William Woods, a GAO contracting expert, said in testimony prepared for a hearing Thursday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. GAO is the nonpartisan investigative agency of Congress.

Spokesman Aaron Albright said the administration takes its responsibility for contract oversight seriously and has already started carrying out improvements that go beyond GAO’s recommendations. The congressional investigators recommended a cost control plan and other changes to establish clear procedures and improve oversight.

But Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, one of the lawmakers who requested the investigation, said “millions of taxpayer dollars were wasted to build a website that didn’t work, all because of bureaucratic incompetence.”

Investigators found that the administration kept changing the contractors’ marching orders for the HealthCare.gov website, creating widespread confusion and adding tens of millions of dollars in costs. Changes were ordered seemingly willy-nilly, including 40 times when government officials did not have the initial authority to incur additional costs.

The report faults the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service for ineffective oversight. Known as CMS, the agency is part of the Department of Health and Human Services and was designated to administer Obama’s health care law.

GAO concluded:

- Contractors were not given a coherent plan, and instead jumped around from issue to issue.

- The cost of a glitchy computerized sign-up system for consumers ballooned from $56 million to more than $209 million from Sept. 2011 to Feb. 2014. The cost of the electronic backroom for verifying applicants’ information jumped from $30 million to almost $85 million.

- CMS, representing the administration, failed to follow up on how well the contractors performed.

-A third contract, for fixes to the website, grew from $91 million in January to $175 million as of last month.

Two contractors initially took the lead building the system:

Virginia-based CGI Federal built HealthCare.gov, the consumer-facing portal to subsidized private coverage for the uninsured. The site serves 36 states, while the remaining states built their own systems, with mixed results.

QSSI, based in Maryland, was responsible for an electronic back office that helps verify personal and financial information to determine whether consumers are eligible for tax credits to help pay their premiums.

The consumer end of the system locked up the day it was launched, Oct. 1, and was down most of that initial month. The electronic back office had fewer problems.

A few months before the launch, the CMS agency notified CGI it was so dissatisfied that it would start withholding payments. Then it rescinded that decision.

CMS ultimately paid nearly all of CGI’s $12.5 million in fees, withholding only $267,000, the report said. The agency later ended its contract with CGI. Another contractor, Accenture, was brought in to make website fixes.

Confronted with a public relations disaster, the White House sent in a troubleshooter, management consultant Jeff Zients. He removed CMS as project leader, relegating it to a supporting role.

CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner later personally apologized to Congress saying that “the website has not worked as well as it should.”

Zients’ rescue operation got the site working by early December. Eventually, some 8 million people managed to sign up, far exceeding expectations.

Nonetheless, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stepped down amid complaints by White House officials that the president was blind-sided by the problems.

The original contractors testified to Congress that they did not have nearly enough time to test the system before it went live.

Indeed, Tavenner took the unusual step of signing the operational security certificate for HealthCare.gov herself, after CMS security professionals balked. The site has since passed full security testing.

The GAO’s findings added to earlier conclusions in a report by Zients after his team got the website to work.

Beyond a maze of technical problems, Zients said he found “inadequate management oversight and coordination” that “prevented real-time decision making and efficient responses.”

Obama has already weathered the worst storms from the bungled health care launch, so the report is unlikely to create major political problems for the White House and Democrats generally.

But it does shine a light on what was going on behind the scenes even as administration officials fostered the impression that signing up for health care would be simple, like shopping online.

Online:

GAO report: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-694

Probe exposes flaws behind HealthCare.gov rollout

KDWN

WASHINGTON (AP) — Management failures by the Obama administration set the stage for computer woes that paralyzed the president’s new health care program last fall, nonpartisan investigators said in a report released Wednesday.

While the administration was publicly assuring consumers that they would soon have seamless online access to health insurance, a chaotic procurement process was about to deliver a stumbling start.

After a months-long investigation, the Government Accountability Office found that the administration lacked “effective planning or oversight practices” for the development of HealthCare.gov, the portal for millions of uninsured Americans.

As a result the government incurred “significant cost increases, schedule slips and delayed system functionality,” William Woods, a GAO contracting expert, said in testimony prepared for a hearing Thursday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. GAO is the nonpartisan investigative agency of Congress.

Spokesman Aaron Albright said the administration takes its responsibility for contract oversight seriously and has already started carrying out improvements that go beyond GAO’s recommendations. The congressional investigators recommended a cost control plan and other changes to establish clear procedures and improve oversight.

But Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, one of the lawmakers who requested the investigation, said “millions of taxpayer dollars were wasted to build a website that didn’t work, all because of bureaucratic incompetence.”

Investigators found that the administration kept changing the contractors’ marching orders for the HealthCare.gov website, creating widespread confusion and adding tens of millions of dollars in costs. Changes were ordered seemingly willy-nilly, including 40 times when government officials did not have the initial authority to incur additional costs.

The report faults the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service for ineffective oversight. Known as CMS, the agency is part of the Department of Health and Human Services and was designated to administer Obama’s health care law.

GAO concluded:

- Contractors were not given a coherent plan, and instead jumped around from issue to issue.

- The cost of a glitchy computerized sign-up system for consumers ballooned from $56 million to more than $209 million from Sept. 2011 to Feb. 2014. The cost of the electronic backroom for verifying applicants’ information jumped from $30 million to almost $85 million.

- CMS, representing the administration, failed to follow up on how well the contractors performed.

-A third contract, for fixes to the website, grew from $91 million in January to $175 million as of last month.

Two contractors initially took the lead building the system:

Virginia-based CGI Federal built HealthCare.gov, the consumer-facing portal to subsidized private coverage for the uninsured. The site serves 36 states, while the remaining states built their own systems, with mixed results.

QSSI, based in Maryland, was responsible for an electronic back office that helps verify personal and financial information to determine whether consumers are eligible for tax credits to help pay their premiums.

The consumer end of the system locked up the day it was launched, Oct. 1, and was down most of that initial month. The electronic back office had fewer problems.

A few months before the launch, the CMS agency notified CGI it was so dissatisfied that it would start withholding payments. Then it rescinded that decision.

CMS ultimately paid nearly all of CGI’s $12.5 million in fees, withholding only $267,000, the report said. The agency later ended its contract with CGI. Another contractor, Accenture, was brought in to make website fixes.

Confronted with a public relations disaster, the White House sent in a troubleshooter, management consultant Jeff Zients. He removed CMS as project leader, relegating it to a supporting role.

CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner later personally apologized to Congress saying that “the website has not worked as well as it should.”

Zients’ rescue operation got the site working by early December. Eventually, some 8 million people managed to sign up, far exceeding expectations.

Nonetheless, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stepped down amid complaints by White House officials that the president was blind-sided by the problems.

The original contractors testified to Congress that they did not have nearly enough time to test the system before it went live.

Indeed, Tavenner took the unusual step of signing the operational security certificate for HealthCare.gov herself, after CMS security professionals balked. The site has since passed full security testing.

The GAO’s findings added to earlier conclusions in a report by Zients after his team got the website to work.

Beyond a maze of technical problems, Zients said he found “inadequate management oversight and coordination” that “prevented real-time decision making and efficient responses.”

Obama has already weathered the worst storms from the bungled health care launch, so the report is unlikely to create major political problems for the White House and Democrats generally.

But it does shine a light on what was going on behind the scenes even as administration officials fostered the impression that signing up for health care would be simple, like shopping online.

Online:

GAO report: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-694

Probe exposes flaws behind HealthCare.gov rollout

KDWN

WASHINGTON (AP) — Management failures by the Obama administration set the stage for computer woes that paralyzed the president’s new health care program last fall, nonpartisan investigators said in a report released Wednesday.

While the administration was publicly assuring consumers that they would soon have seamless online access to health insurance, a chaotic procurement process was about to deliver a stumbling start.

After a months-long investigation, the Government Accountability Office found that the administration lacked “effective planning or oversight practices” for the development of HealthCare.gov, the portal for millions of uninsured Americans.

As a result the government incurred “significant cost increases, schedule slips and delayed system functionality,” William Woods, a GAO contracting expert, said in testimony prepared for a hearing Thursday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. GAO is the nonpartisan investigative agency of Congress.

Spokesman Aaron Albright said the administration takes its responsibility for contract oversight seriously and has already started carrying out improvements that go beyond GAO’s recommendations. The congressional investigators recommended a cost control plan and other changes to establish clear procedures and improve oversight.

But Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, one of the lawmakers who requested the investigation, said “millions of taxpayer dollars were wasted to build a website that didn’t work, all because of bureaucratic incompetence.”

Investigators found that the administration kept changing the contractors’ marching orders for the HealthCare.gov website, creating widespread confusion and adding tens of millions of dollars in costs. Changes were ordered seemingly willy-nilly, including 40 times when government officials did not have the initial authority to incur additional costs.

The report faults the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service for ineffective oversight. Known as CMS, the agency is part of the Department of Health and Human Services and was designated to administer Obama’s health care law.

GAO concluded:

- Contractors were not given a coherent plan, and instead jumped around from issue to issue.

- The cost of a glitchy computerized sign-up system for consumers ballooned from $56 million to more than $209 million from Sept. 2011 to Feb. 2014. The cost of the electronic backroom for verifying applicants’ information jumped from $30 million to almost $85 million.

- CMS, representing the administration, failed to follow up on how well the contractors performed.

-A third contract, for fixes to the website, grew from $91 million in January to $175 million as of last month.

Two contractors initially took the lead building the system:

Virginia-based CGI Federal built HealthCare.gov, the consumer-facing portal to subsidized private coverage for the uninsured. The site serves 36 states, while the remaining states built their own systems, with mixed results.

QSSI, based in Maryland, was responsible for an electronic back office that helps verify personal and financial information to determine whether consumers are eligible for tax credits to help pay their premiums.

The consumer end of the system locked up the day it was launched, Oct. 1, and was down most of that initial month. The electronic back office had fewer problems.

A few months before the launch, the CMS agency notified CGI it was so dissatisfied that it would start withholding payments. Then it rescinded that decision.

CMS ultimately paid nearly all of CGI’s $12.5 million in fees, withholding only $267,000, the report said. The agency later ended its contract with CGI. Another contractor, Accenture, was brought in to make website fixes.

Confronted with a public relations disaster, the White House sent in a troubleshooter, management consultant Jeff Zients. He removed CMS as project leader, relegating it to a supporting role.

CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner later personally apologized to Congress saying that “the website has not worked as well as it should.”

Zients’ rescue operation got the site working by early December. Eventually, some 8 million people managed to sign up, far exceeding expectations.

Nonetheless, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stepped down amid complaints by White House officials that the president was blind-sided by the problems.

The original contractors testified to Congress that they did not have nearly enough time to test the system before it went live.

Indeed, Tavenner took the unusual step of signing the operational security certificate for HealthCare.gov herself, after CMS security professionals balked. The site has since passed full security testing.

The GAO’s findings added to earlier conclusions in a report by Zients after his team got the website to work.

Beyond a maze of technical problems, Zients said he found “inadequate management oversight and coordination” that “prevented real-time decision making and efficient responses.”

Obama has already weathered the worst storms from the bungled health care launch, so the report is unlikely to create major political problems for the White House and Democrats generally.

But it does shine a light on what was going on behind the scenes even as administration officials fostered the impression that signing up for health care would be simple, like shopping online.

Online:

GAO report: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-694

Probe exposes flaws behind HealthCare.gov rollout

KDWN

WASHINGTON (AP) — Management failures by the Obama administration set the stage for computer woes that paralyzed the president’s new health care program last fall, nonpartisan investigators said in a report released Wednesday.

While the administration was publicly assuring consumers that they would soon have seamless online access to health insurance, a chaotic procurement process was about to deliver a stumbling start.

After a months-long investigation, the Government Accountability Office found that the administration lacked “effective planning or oversight practices” for the development of HealthCare.gov, the portal for millions of uninsured Americans.

As a result the government incurred “significant cost increases, schedule slips and delayed system functionality,” William Woods, a GAO contracting expert, said in testimony prepared for a hearing Thursday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. GAO is the nonpartisan investigative agency of Congress.

Spokesman Aaron Albright said the administration takes its responsibility for contract oversight seriously and has already started carrying out improvements that go beyond GAO’s recommendations. The congressional investigators recommended a cost control plan and other changes to establish clear procedures and improve oversight.

But Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, one of the lawmakers who requested the investigation, said “millions of taxpayer dollars were wasted to build a website that didn’t work, all because of bureaucratic incompetence.”

Investigators found that the administration kept changing the contractors’ marching orders for the HealthCare.gov website, creating widespread confusion and adding tens of millions of dollars in costs. Changes were ordered seemingly willy-nilly, including 40 times when government officials did not have the initial authority to incur additional costs.

The report faults the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service for ineffective oversight. Known as CMS, the agency is part of the Department of Health and Human Services and was designated to administer Obama’s health care law.

GAO concluded:

- Contractors were not given a coherent plan, and instead jumped around from issue to issue.

- The cost of a glitchy computerized sign-up system for consumers ballooned from $56 million to more than $209 million from Sept. 2011 to Feb. 2014. The cost of the electronic backroom for verifying applicants’ information jumped from $30 million to almost $85 million.

- CMS, representing the administration, failed to follow up on how well the contractors performed.

-A third contract, for fixes to the website, grew from $91 million in January to $175 million as of last month.

Two contractors initially took the lead building the system:

Virginia-based CGI Federal built HealthCare.gov, the consumer-facing portal to subsidized private coverage for the uninsured. The site serves 36 states, while the remaining states built their own systems, with mixed results.

QSSI, based in Maryland, was responsible for an electronic back office that helps verify personal and financial information to determine whether consumers are eligible for tax credits to help pay their premiums.

The consumer end of the system locked up the day it was launched, Oct. 1, and was down most of that initial month. The electronic back office had fewer problems.

A few months before the launch, the CMS agency notified CGI it was so dissatisfied that it would start withholding payments. Then it rescinded that decision.

CMS ultimately paid nearly all of CGI’s $12.5 million in fees, withholding only $267,000, the report said. The agency later ended its contract with CGI. Another contractor, Accenture, was brought in to make website fixes.

Confronted with a public relations disaster, the White House sent in a troubleshooter, management consultant Jeff Zients. He removed CMS as project leader, relegating it to a supporting role.

CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner later personally apologized to Congress saying that “the website has not worked as well as it should.”

Zients’ rescue operation got the site working by early December. Eventually, some 8 million people managed to sign up, far exceeding expectations.

Nonetheless, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stepped down amid complaints by White House officials that the president was blind-sided by the problems.

The original contractors testified to Congress that they did not have nearly enough time to test the system before it went live.

Indeed, Tavenner took the unusual step of signing the operational security certificate for HealthCare.gov herself, after CMS security professionals balked. The site has since passed full security testing.

The GAO’s findings added to earlier conclusions in a report by Zients after his team got the website to work.

Beyond a maze of technical problems, Zients said he found “inadequate management oversight and coordination” that “prevented real-time decision making and efficient responses.”

Obama has already weathered the worst storms from the bungled health care launch, so the report is unlikely to create major political problems for the White House and Democrats generally.

But it does shine a light on what was going on behind the scenes even as administration officials fostered the impression that signing up for health care would be simple, like shopping online.

Online:

GAO report: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-694

Probe exposes flaws behind HealthCare.gov rollout

KDWN

WASHINGTON (AP) — Management failures by the Obama administration set the stage for the computer woes that paralyzed the president’s new health care program last fall, nonpartisan investigators said in testimony released Wednesday.

Behind the administration’s repeated assurances that consumers across the land would soon have seamless access to health care, a chaotic procurement process was about to deliver a stumbling start.

After a months-long investigation, the Government Accountability Office found that the administration lacked “effective planning or oversight practices” for the development of HealthCare.gov, the online portal to coverage for millions of uninsured Americans.

As a result the government incurred “significant cost increases, schedule slips, and delayed functionality,” William Woods, a GAO contracting expert, said in testimony prepared for a hearing Thursday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

GAO is the nonpartisan investigative agency of Congress. Its full report is also expected Thursday.

Spokesman Aaron Albright said the administration takes its responsibility for contract oversight seriously and has already started carrying out improvements that go beyond GAO’s recommendations. The congressional investigators recommended a cost control plan and other changes to establish clear procedures and improve oversight.

Investigators found that the administration kept changing the contractors’ marching orders for the HealthCare.gov website, creating widespread confusion and leading to tens of millions of dollars in additional costs. Changes were ordered in seemingly willy-nilly fashion, including 40 times when government officials did not have the initial authority to incur additional costs.

The report faults the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services – which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services – for ineffective oversight. The Medicare agency, known as CMS, was designated to administer Obama’s health care law.

GAO concluded:

- Contractors were not given a coherent plan, and instead they were kept jumping around from issue to issue.

- The cost of the sign-up system ballooned from $56 million to more than $209 million from Sept. 2011 to Feb. 2014. The cost of the electronic backroom jumped from $30 million to almost $85 million.

- CMS, representing the administration, failed to follow up on how well the contractors performed. At one point the agency notified one contractor it was so dissatisfied it would start withholding payments. Then it quickly rescinded that decision.

-The type of federal contract that the administration selected for HealthCare.gov was open-ended, which may have encouraged costly changes.

Two contractors took the lead on the computerized system:

Virginia-based CGI Federal built HealthCare.gov, the consumer-facing portal to subsidized private health insurance under the law. The site serves 36 states, while the remaining states built their own systems, with mixed results.

QSSI, based in Maryland, was responsible for an electronic back office that helps verify personal and financial information to determine if consumers are eligible for tax credits to help pay their premiums.

The front end of the system locked up the same day it was launched, Oct. 1, and was down most of that initial month. The electronic back office had fewer problems.

Despite crippling problems with the part of the system used by consumers, CMS ultimately paid nearly all of CGI’s $12.5 million in fees, withholding only $267,000, GAO said.

Confronted with a flop, the White House sent in management consultant Jeff Zients as a troubleshooter. He removed CMS as project leader and gave the agency a supporting role.

CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner later personally apologized to Congress saying that “the website has not worked as well as it should.”

Zients’ rescue operation got the site working by early December. Another major contractor, Accenture, was brought in to help fix things. Eventually, some 8 million people managed to sign up, far exceeding expectations.

Nonetheless, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stepped down amid complaints by White House officials that the president was blind-sided by the problems.

The original contractors testified to Congress that they did not have nearly enough time to test the system before it went live.

Indeed, Tavenner took the unusual step of signing the operational security certificate for HealthCare.gov herself, after CMS security professionals balked. The site has since passed full security testing.

The GAO’s findings amplified earlier conclusions in a report by Zients after his team got the website to work.

In addition to hundreds of software bugs, insufficient infrastructure and subpar monitoring of problems, the White House troubleshooter found “inadequate management oversight and coordination” that “prevented real-time decision making and efficient responses to address the issues.”

Obama has already weathered the worst storms from the bungled health care launch, so the report is unlikely to create major political problems for the White House and Democrats generally.

But it does shine a light on what was going on behind the scenes even as administration officials fostered the impression that signing up for health care would be simple, like shopping online.

Probe exposes flaws behind HealthCare.gov rollout

KDWN

WASHINGTON (AP) — Management failures by the Obama administration set the stage for the computer woes that paralyzed the president’s new health care program last fall, nonpartisan investigators said in testimony released Wednesday.

Behind the administration’s repeated assurances that consumers across the land would soon have seamless access to health care, a chaotic procurement process was about to deliver a stumbling start.

After a months-long investigation, the Government Accountability Office found that the administration lacked “effective planning or oversight practices” for the development of HealthCare.gov, the online portal to coverage for millions of uninsured Americans.

As a result the government incurred “significant cost increases, schedule slips, and delayed functionality,” William Woods, a GAO contracting expert, said in testimony prepared for a hearing Thursday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

GAO is the nonpartisan investigative agency of Congress. Its full report is also expected Thursday.

Spokesman Aaron Albright said the administration takes its responsibility for contract oversight seriously and has already started carrying out improvements that go beyond GAO’s recommendations. The congressional investigators recommended a cost control plan and other changes to establish clear procedures and improve oversight.

Investigators found that the administration kept changing the contractors’ marching orders for the HealthCare.gov website, creating widespread confusion and leading to tens of millions of dollars in additional costs. Changes were ordered in seemingly willy-nilly fashion, including 40 times when government officials did not have the initial authority to incur additional costs.

The report faults the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services – which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services – for ineffective oversight. The Medicare agency, known as CMS, was designated to administer Obama’s health care law.

GAO concluded:

- Contractors were not given a coherent plan, and instead they were kept jumping around from issue to issue.

- The cost of the sign-up system ballooned from $56 million to more than $209 million from Sept. 2011 to Feb. 2014. The cost of the electronic backroom jumped from $30 million to almost $85 million.

- CMS, representing the administration, failed to follow up on how well the contractors performed. At one point the agency notified one contractor it was so dissatisfied it would start withholding payments. Then it quickly rescinded that decision.

-The type of federal contract that the administration selected for HealthCare.gov was open-ended, which may have encouraged costly changes.

Two contractors took the lead on the computerized system:

Virginia-based CGI Federal built HealthCare.gov, the consumer-facing portal to subsidized private health insurance under the law. The site serves 36 states, while the remaining states built their own systems, with mixed results.

QSSI, based in Maryland, was responsible for an electronic back office that helps verify personal and financial information to determine if consumers are eligible for tax credits to help pay their premiums.

The front end of the system locked up the same day it was launched, Oct. 1, and was down most of that initial month. The electronic back office had fewer problems.

Despite crippling problems with the part of the system used by consumers, CMS ultimately paid nearly all of CGI’s $12.5 million in fees, withholding only $267,000, GAO said.

Confronted with a flop, the White House sent in management consultant Jeff Zients as a troubleshooter. He removed CMS as project leader and gave the agency a supporting role.

CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner later personally apologized to Congress saying that “the website has not worked as well as it should.”

Zients’ rescue operation got the site working by early December. Another major contractor, Accenture, was brought in to help fix things. Eventually, some 8 million people managed to sign up, far exceeding expectations.

Nonetheless, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stepped down amid complaints by White House officials that the president was blind-sided by the problems.

The original contractors testified to Congress that they did not have nearly enough time to test the system before it went live.

Indeed, Tavenner took the unusual step of signing the operational security certificate for HealthCare.gov herself, after CMS security professionals balked. The site has since passed full security testing.

The GAO’s findings amplified earlier conclusions in a report by Zients after his team got the website to work.

In addition to hundreds of software bugs, insufficient infrastructure and subpar monitoring of problems, the White House troubleshooter found “inadequate management oversight and coordination” that “prevented real-time decision making and efficient responses to address the issues.”

Obama has already weathered the worst storms from the bungled health care launch, so the report is unlikely to create major political problems for the White House and Democrats generally.

But it does shine a light on what was going on behind the scenes even as administration officials fostered the impression that signing up for health care would be simple, like shopping online.

Probe exposes flaws behind HealthCare.gov rollout

KDWN

WASHINGTON (AP) — Management failures by the Obama administration set the stage for the computer woes that paralyzed the president’s new health care program last fall, nonpartisan investigators said in testimony released Wednesday.

Behind the administration’s repeated assurances that consumers across the land would soon have seamless access to health care, a chaotic procurement process was about to deliver a stumbling start.

After a months-long investigation, the Government Accountability Office found that the administration lacked “effective planning or oversight practices” for the development of HealthCare.gov, the online portal to coverage for millions of uninsured Americans.

As a result the government incurred “significant cost increases, schedule slips, and delayed functionality,” William Woods, a GAO contracting expert, said in testimony prepared for a hearing Thursday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

GAO is the nonpartisan investigative agency of Congress. Its full report is also expected Thursday.

Spokesman Aaron Albright said the administration takes its responsibility for contract oversight seriously and has already started carrying out improvements that go beyond GAO’s recommendations. The congressional investigators recommended a cost control plan and other changes to establish clear procedures and improve oversight.

Investigators found that the administration kept changing the contractors’ marching orders for the HealthCare.gov website, creating widespread confusion and leading to tens of millions of dollars in additional costs. Changes were ordered in seemingly willy-nilly fashion, including 40 times when government officials did not have the initial authority to incur additional costs.

The report faults the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services – which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services – for ineffective oversight. The Medicare agency, known as CMS, was designated to administer Obama’s health care law.

GAO concluded:

- Contractors were not given a coherent plan, and instead they were kept jumping around from issue to issue.

- The cost of the sign-up system ballooned from $56 million to more than $209 million from Sept. 2011 to Feb. 2014. The cost of the electronic backroom jumped from $30 million to almost $85 million.

- CMS, representing the administration, failed to follow up on how well the contractors performed. At one point the agency notified one contractor it was so dissatisfied it would start withholding payments. Then it quickly rescinded that decision.

-The type of federal contract that the administration selected for HealthCare.gov was open-ended, which may have encouraged costly changes.

Two contractors took the lead on the computerized system:

Virginia-based CGI Federal built HealthCare.gov, the consumer-facing portal to subsidized private health insurance under the law. The site serves 36 states, while the remaining states built their own systems, with mixed results.

QSSI, based in Maryland, was responsible for an electronic back office that helps verify personal and financial information to determine if consumers are eligible for tax credits to help pay their premiums.

The front end of the system locked up the same day it was launched, Oct. 1, and was down most of that initial month. The electronic back office had fewer problems.

Despite crippling problems with the part of the system used by consumers, CMS ultimately paid nearly all of CGI’s $12.5 million in fees, withholding only $267,000, GAO said.

Confronted with a flop, the White House sent in management consultant Jeff Zients as a troubleshooter. He removed CMS as project leader and gave the agency a supporting role.

CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner later personally apologized to Congress saying that “the website has not worked as well as it should.”

Zients’ rescue operation got the site working by early December. Another major contractor, Accenture, was brought in to help fix things. Eventually, some 8 million people managed to sign up, far exceeding expectations.

Nonetheless, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stepped down amid complaints by White House officials that the president was blind-sided by the problems.

The original contractors testified to Congress that they did not have nearly enough time to test the system before it went live.

Indeed, Tavenner took the unusual step of signing the operational security certificate for HealthCare.gov herself, after CMS security professionals balked. The site has since passed full security testing.

The GAO’s findings amplified earlier conclusions in a report by Zients after his team got the website to work.

In addition to hundreds of software bugs, insufficient infrastructure and subpar monitoring of problems, the White House troubleshooter found “inadequate management oversight and coordination” that “prevented real-time decision making and efficient responses to address the issues.”

Obama has already weathered the worst storms from the bungled health care launch, so the report is unlikely to create major political problems for the White House and Democrats generally.

But it does shine a light on what was going on behind the scenes even as administration officials fostered the impression that signing up for health care would be simple, like shopping online.

Probe exposes flaws behind HealthCare.gov rollout

KDWN

WASHINGTON (AP) — Management failures by the Obama administration set the stage for the computer woes that paralyzed the president’s new health care program last fall, nonpartisan investigators said in testimony released Wednesday.

After a months-long investigation, the Government Accountability Office found that the administration lacked “effective planning or oversight practices” for the development of HealthCare.gov, the online portal to coverage for millions of uninsured Americans.

As a result the government incurred “significant cost increases, schedule slips, and delayed functionality,” William Woods, a GAO contracting expert said in testimony prepared for a hearing Thursday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

GAO is the nonpartisan investigative agency of Congress. Its full report is also expected Thursday.

The administration concurs with most of the findings, agreeing that the initial performance of HealthCare.gov was unacceptable. But officials say that things have come a long way since then.

Investigators found that the administration kept changing the contractors’ marching orders for the HealthCare.gov website, creating widespread confusion and leading to tens of millions of dollars in additional costs. Changes were ordered in seemingly willy-nilly fashion, including 40 times when government officials did not have the formal authority to incur additional costs.

The report faults the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services – which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services – for ineffective oversight of contracts for HealthCare.gov’s computerized sign-up system and its electronic back office. The Medicare agency, known as CMS, was designated to administer Obama’s health care law.

GAO concluded:

-Contractors were not given a coherent plan, and instead they were kept jumping around from issue to issue.

- The cost of the sign-up system ballooned from $56 million to more than $209 million from Sept. 2011 to Feb. 2014. The cost of the electronic backroom jumped from $30 million to almost $85 million.

-CMS, the lead agency, failed to follow up on how well the contractors performed. At one point the agency notified one contractor it was so dissatisfied that it would start withholding payments, and then quickly rescinded that decision.

-The type of federal contract that the administration selected for HealthCare.gov was open-ended, which may have encouraged costly changes.

Two contractors took the lead on the computerized system:

Virginia-based CGI Federal built HealthCare.gov, the online gateway to subsidized private health insurance provided under the law. The site serves 36 states, while the remaining states built their own systems, with mixed results.

QSSI, based in Maryland, was responsible for an electronic back office that helps verify personal and financial information to determine if consumers are eligible for tax credits to help pay their premiums.

The front end of the system locked up the same day it was launched, Oct. 1, and it was down most of that initial month. The electronic back office had fewer problems.

Despite the problems with the front end of the system, CMS ultimately paid nearly all of CGI’s $12.5 million in fees, withholding only $267,000, the GAO report said.

Confronted with an embarrassing spectacle, the White House sent in management consultant Jeff Zients as a troubleshooter. One of his first decisions was to nudge CMS aside as project leader and give the agency a supporting role.

CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner later personally apologized to Congress that, “the website has not worked as well as it should.”

Zients’ rescue operation got the site working by early December. Another major contractor, Accenture, was brought in to help fix things. Eventually, some 8 million people managed to sign up, far exceeding expectations.

Nonetheless, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stepped down amid complaints by White House officials that the president was blind-sided by the problems.

The original contractors testified to Congress that they did not have nearly enough time to test the system before it went live. Indeed, Tavenner took the unusual step of signing the operational security certificate for HealthCare.gov herself, after CMS security professionals balked. The site has since passed full security testing.

The GAO’s findings amplified earlier conclusions in a report by Zients himself after the website was restored to working order.

In addition to hundreds of software bugs, insufficient infrastructure and subpar monitoring of problems, the White House troubleshooter said that “inadequate management oversight and coordination among technical teams prevented real-time decision making and efficient responses to address the issues with the site.”

Obama has already weathered the worst storms from the bungled launch of his health care program, so the report is unlikely to create major political problems for the White House and Democrats generally.

But it does shine a light on what was going on behind the scenes even as administration officials fostered the impression that signing up for health care would be simple, like shopping online. While Obama’s political operation is legendary for its technological sophistication, it turns out his administration was another story.

Probe exposes flaws behind HealthCare.gov rollout

KDWN

WASHINGTON (AP) — Management failures by the Obama administration set the stage for the computer woes that paralyzed the president’s new health care program last fall, nonpartisan investigators said in testimony released Wednesday.

After a months-long investigation, the Government Accountability Office found that the administration lacked “effective planning or oversight practices” for the development of HealthCare.gov, the online portal to coverage for millions of uninsured Americans.

As a result the government incurred “significant cost increases, schedule slips, and delayed functionality,” William Woods, a GAO contracting expert said in testimony prepared for a hearing Thursday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

GAO is the nonpartisan investigative agency of Congress. Its full report is also expected Thursday.

The administration concurs with most of the findings, agreeing that the initial performance of HealthCare.gov was unacceptable. But officials say that things have come a long way since then.

Investigators found that the administration kept changing the contractors’ marching orders for the HealthCare.gov website, creating widespread confusion and leading to tens of millions of dollars in additional costs. Changes were ordered in seemingly willy-nilly fashion, including 40 times when government officials did not have the formal authority to incur additional costs.

The report faults the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services – which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services – for ineffective oversight of contracts for HealthCare.gov’s computerized sign-up system and its electronic back office. The Medicare agency, known as CMS, was designated to administer Obama’s health care law.

GAO concluded:

-Contractors were not given a coherent plan, and instead they were kept jumping around from issue to issue.

- The cost of the sign-up system ballooned from $56 million to more than $209 million from Sept. 2011 to Feb. 2014. The cost of the electronic backroom jumped from $30 million to almost $85 million.

-CMS, the lead agency, failed to follow up on how well the contractors performed. At one point the agency notified one contractor it was so dissatisfied that it would start withholding payments, and then quickly rescinded that decision.

-The type of federal contract that the administration selected for HealthCare.gov was open-ended, which may have encouraged costly changes.

Two contractors took the lead on the computerized system:

Virginia-based CGI Federal built HealthCare.gov, the online gateway to subsidized private health insurance provided under the law. The site serves 36 states, while the remaining states built their own systems, with mixed results.

QSSI, based in Maryland, was responsible for an electronic back office that helps verify personal and financial information to determine if consumers are eligible for tax credits to help pay their premiums.

The front end of the system locked up the same day it was launched, Oct. 1, and it was down most of that initial month. The electronic back office had fewer problems.

Despite the problems with the front end of the system, CMS ultimately paid nearly all of CGI’s $12.5 million in fees, withholding only $267,000, the GAO report said.

Confronted with an embarrassing spectacle, the White House sent in management consultant Jeff Zients as a troubleshooter. One of his first decisions was to nudge CMS aside as project leader and give the agency a supporting role.

CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner later personally apologized to Congress that, “the website has not worked as well as it should.”

Zients’ rescue operation got the site working by early December. Another major contractor, Accenture, was brought in to help fix things. Eventually, some 8 million people managed to sign up, far exceeding expectations.

Nonetheless, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stepped down amid complaints by White House officials that the president was blind-sided by the problems.

The original contractors testified to Congress that they did not have nearly enough time to test the system before it went live. Indeed, Tavenner took the unusual step of signing the operational security certificate for HealthCare.gov herself, after CMS security professionals balked. The site has since passed full security testing.

The GAO’s findings amplified earlier conclusions in a report by Zients himself after the website was restored to working order.

In addition to hundreds of software bugs, insufficient infrastructure and subpar monitoring of problems, the White House troubleshooter said that “inadequate management oversight and coordination among technical teams prevented real-time decision making and efficient responses to address the issues with the site.”

Obama has already weathered the worst storms from the bungled launch of his health care program, so the report is unlikely to create major political problems for the White House and Democrats generally.

But it does shine a light on what was going on behind the scenes even as administration officials fostered the impression that signing up for health care would be simple, like shopping online. While Obama’s political operation is legendary for its technological sophistication, it turns out his administration was another story.

Probe exposes flaws behind HealthCare.gov rollout

KDWN

WASHINGTON (AP) — A nonpartisan congressional investigation has concluded that management failures by the Obama administration set the stage for the computer woes that paralyzed President Barack Obama’s health care program website last fall, officials told The Associated Press.

The findings are in a report to be released Thursday by the Government Accountability Office, which has spent months investigating the health law’s chaotic rollout. GAO is the nonpartisan investigative agency of Congress.

Investigators found that the administration kept changing the contractors’ marching orders for the HealthCare.gov website, creating widespread confusion and leading to tens of millions of dollars in additional costs.

Republican and Democratic congressional aides briefed on the report told the AP that it faults the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services – which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services – for ineffective oversight of contracts for the site’s computerized sign-up system and its electronic back office. The Medicare agency, known as CMS, was designated to administer Obama’s health care law.

The aides said they were briefed by GAO on a late draft of the report. They spoke only on condition of anonymity, saying they couldn’t be quoted by name discussing the report ahead of its official release.

GAO concluded:

-Contractors were not given a coherent plan, and instead they were kept jumping around from issue to issue.

-The cost of the project grew by tens of millions of dollars as the contractors tried to accommodate administration requests.

-CMS, the lead agency, failed to follow up on whether contractors were doing the work assigned to them, and to review that work for quality.

-CMS sent conflicting signals, at one point notifying one contractor it was so dissatisfied that it would start withholding payments, and then quickly rescinded that decision.

-The type of federal contract that the administration selected for HealthCare.gov was open-ended, which may have encouraged costly changes.

Two contractors took the lead on the computerized system:

Virginia-based CGI Federal built HealthCare.gov, the online gateway to subsidized private health insurance provided under the law. The site serves 36 states, while the remaining states built their own systems, with mixed results.

QSSI, based in Maryland, was responsible for an electronic back office that helps verify personal and financial information to determine if consumers are eligible for tax credits to help pay their premiums.

The front end of the system locked up the same day it was launched, Oct. 1, and it was down most of that initial month. The electronic back office had fewer problems.

Confronted with an embarrassing spectacle, the White House sent in management consultant Jeff Zients as a troubleshooter. One of his first decisions was to nudge CMS aside as project leader and give the agency a supporting role.

CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner later personally apologized to Congress that, “the website has not worked as well as it should.”

Zients’ rescue operation got the site working by early December. Another major contractor, Accenture, was brought in to help fix things. Eventually, some 8 million people managed to sign up, far exceeding expectations.

Nonetheless, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stepped down amid complaints by White House officials that the president was blind-sided by the problems.

The original contractors testified to Congress that they did not have nearly enough time to test the system before it went live. Indeed, Tavenner took the unusual step of signing the operational security certificate for HealthCare.gov herself, after CMS security professionals balked. The site has since passed full security testing.

The GAO’s findings amplified earlier conclusions in a report by Zients himself after the website was restored to working order.

In addition to hundreds of software bugs, insufficient infrastructure and subpar monitoring of problems, the White House troubleshooter said that “inadequate management oversight and coordination among technical teams prevented real-time decision making and efficient responses to address the issues with the site.”

The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing Thursday on GAO’s investigation.

Probe exposes flaws behind HealthCare.gov rollout

KDWN

WASHINGTON (AP) — A nonpartisan congressional investigation has concluded that management failures by the Obama administration set the stage for the computer woes that paralyzed President Barack Obama’s health care program website last fall, officials told The Associated Press.

The findings are in a report to be released Thursday by the Government Accountability Office, which has spent months investigating the health law’s chaotic rollout. GAO is the nonpartisan investigative agency of Congress.

Investigators found that the administration kept changing the contractors’ marching orders for the HealthCare.gov website, creating widespread confusion and leading to tens of millions of dollars in additional costs.

Republican and Democratic congressional aides briefed on the report told the AP that it faults the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services – which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services – for ineffective oversight of contracts for the site’s computerized sign-up system and its electronic back office. The Medicare agency, known as CMS, was designated to administer Obama’s health care law.

The aides said they were briefed by GAO on a late draft of the report. They spoke only on condition of anonymity, saying they couldn’t be quoted by name discussing the report ahead of its official release.

GAO concluded:

-Contractors were not given a coherent plan, and instead they were kept jumping around from issue to issue.

-The cost of the project grew by tens of millions of dollars as the contractors tried to accommodate administration requests.

-CMS, the lead agency, failed to follow up on whether contractors were doing the work assigned to them, and to review that work for quality.

-CMS sent conflicting signals, at one point notifying one contractor it was so dissatisfied that it would start withholding payments, and then quickly rescinded that decision.

-The type of federal contract that the administration selected for HealthCare.gov was open-ended, which may have encouraged costly changes.

Two contractors took the lead on the computerized system:

Virginia-based CGI Federal built HealthCare.gov, the online gateway to subsidized private health insurance provided under the law. The site serves 36 states, while the remaining states built their own systems, with mixed results.

QSSI, based in Maryland, was responsible for an electronic back office that helps verify personal and financial information to determine if consumers are eligible for tax credits to help pay their premiums.

The front end of the system locked up the same day it was launched, Oct. 1, and it was down most of that initial month. The electronic back office had fewer problems.

Confronted with an embarrassing spectacle, the White House sent in management consultant Jeff Zients as a troubleshooter. One of his first decisions was to nudge CMS aside as project leader and give the agency a supporting role.

CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner later personally apologized to Congress that, “the website has not worked as well as it should.”

Zients’ rescue operation got the site working by early December. Another major contractor, Accenture, was brought in to help fix things. Eventually, some 8 million people managed to sign up, far exceeding expectations.

Nonetheless, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stepped down amid complaints by White House officials that the president was blind-sided by the problems.

The original contractors testified to Congress that they did not have nearly enough time to test the system before it went live. Indeed, Tavenner took the unusual step of signing the operational security certificate for HealthCare.gov herself, after CMS security professionals balked. The site has since passed full security testing.

The GAO’s findings amplified earlier conclusions in a report by Zients himself after the website was restored to working order.

In addition to hundreds of software bugs, insufficient infrastructure and subpar monitoring of problems, the White House troubleshooter said that “inadequate management oversight and coordination among technical teams prevented real-time decision making and efficient responses to address the issues with the site.”

The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing Thursday on GAO’s investigation.