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Government Remains Silent on Emergency, No-Bid Obamacare Financial Management Contract

12:40 PM, Nov 21, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
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The contract announcement and accompanying documents are not completely clear how these activities translate into functions to carry out the ACA and support Healthcare.gov. For example, regulations governing the marketplaces say that an "Exchange may establish a process to facilitate through electronic means the collection and payment of premiums to QHP issuers." It remains unclear if Healthcare.gov offers such a facilitation process yet, or if that feature will be activated later. (Maryland recently announced that its state-run exchange was indefinitely suspending the bill-pay feature.)

In any case, as another example, CMS will be responsible for facilitating the payment of the advance tax credits for consumers receiving government subsidies for their plans. The regulations describing that one function alone reveal a complex formula to determine how, when, and to whom the funds should be remitted, and notifications and other requirements regarding the disposition of the credits.

However, since the exact nature of the contractor's work remains unclear, we contacted CMS on September 26 to ask for clarification on the contract, and how the work related to the ACA and its functions.  The following email was received in reply:

However, despite repeated followup email requests, no further information has been received from Mr. Olague or anyone else at CMS in the seven intervening weeks. A similar email to the contractor, Novitas, was answered promptly, but the company declined to provide further details and referred questions back to CMS.

The lack of proper operational and security testing of Healthcare.gov that was revealed in the last month and a half give rise to serious questions about the readiness of other areas under CMS's purview related to Obamacare. Though the agency acknowledged back in August that development and testing were "already minimally two months overdue," there has been no  publicly available update on the status of the Obamacare financial management system until Chao's rather vague testimony on Tuesday that the system may be 60% or so complete. Without some level of transparency from CMS, the public has no way of knowing if CMS's warnings of "severe consequences, financial and other" will materialize, or whether concerns that the "Agency's implementation and operation of the Marketplace and the Affordable Care Act will certainly be jeopardized" have been adequately addressed.

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