When White House officials proudly declared that HealthCare.gov was finally fixed and running smoothly for the vast majority of users at the end of November, they failed to mention that the website still contained serious problems great enough to derail the entire healthcare law.
Those issues are detailed in a new federal document first highlighted by Politico, which describes the shoddy workmanship by the website’s former lead contractor CGI.
The document describes administration officials gravely concerned that CGI was failing to fix serious errors to the “Financial Management Platform” of the website that was only half built. They expressed serious doubts about the contractor and worried that another failure by CGI could destabilize the entire insurance industry.
“If this functionality is not complete by mid-March 2014, the government could make erroneous payments to providers and insurers,” the document said. “Inaccurate issuance of payments … could seriously put them at financial risk; potentially leading to their default and disrupting continued services and coverage to consumers.”
Those concerns led to the administration’s decision to drop CGI and tap Accenture to take over the repair efforts with a $91 million contract.
The improvements to the website were dramatic to people who earlier couldn’t log on, couldn’t apply for coverage, had experienced interminable wait times and site crashes. Those repairs, however seemed successful as people were finally able to shop and sign up for coverage without experiencing too many glitches. That success was reflected in the surge in enrollments in December as the deadline neared--about 2.1 million people had signed up compared to just 364,000 in October and November when the website was still plagued with problems.
The issues that remain, however, are on the back end of the website, which transfers consumers’ information to insurance companies. The administration has repeatedly expressed concern over this issue and continues to instruct consumers to go directly to their insurers to verify that their information has been received and accurately processed.
One of the main concerns the White House has is that some people who think they have successfully signed up for coverage through the exchanges may not actually have insurance.
Another lesser-known issue is the potential problem of accurately processing and disbursing federal subsidies, since the function on the website isn’t yet complete. The document also said that CGI’s failures could be problematic for the “risk adjustment’ provision which creates a temporary pool of money to pay insurers who enroll a higher-than-expected number of sick patients with expensive bills.
Accenture has been tasked with building a new platform that will address those issues.
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