8:36 AM, Dec 19, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
As the October 1 launch of Healthcare.gov drew closer, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) realized it was in trouble. The agency, which is the primary Health and Human Services (HHS) department in charge of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, decided in early August that the "specialized financial management services and expertise [needed were] beyond what was initially anticipated and beyond CMS' currently available resources," and that development and testing were "already minimally two months overdue." By that time, the need for these so-called "back end" services had "reached an unusual and compelling level of urgency," and CMS awarded an emergency, no-bid contract for the work, as first reported by THE WEEKLY STANDARD in September. After HHS initially responded with a promise of more information, the agency has ignored repeated requests for further details. Reuters was stonewalled by the agency as well in a November story about the contract.
To avoid the "severe consequences" that CMS feared would result from further delay, the agency turned to a current HHS contractor, Novitas Solutions, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Diversified Service Options, which is in turn a wholly-owned subsidiary of Florida Blue (Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Florida.) Novitas already administers three different Medicare-related healthcare programs for HHS, including the Medicare Administrative Contract for Jurisdiction H, which covers seven south-central states.
Coincidentally, Novitas launched a new website for Jurisdiction H on September 29, just two days before the launch of the main Obamacare site. The new Jurisdiction H website has experienced problems reminiscent of those experienced by Healthcare.gov, and some of the "fixes" will not be in place until well into 2014. In fact, the latest update from Novitas informed users that the Jurisdiction H website would be taken offline completely at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, December 18, for up to five hours for maintenance.
A report on the website of the Oklahoma Hospital Association (OHA) on December 4 gave some details of the issues facing users of the troubled Novitas Medicare site:
Hospitals continue to experience problems stemming from system changes at Novitas Solutions, the Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC) for Oklahoma and other south central states.
Novitas launched a new website on Sep. 29. This was the most visible change stemming from the transfer of Novitas’ business operations platform from the data center of its former owner, Highmark, to that of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida.
As an example of the website problems, Novitas intended to display content for Part A and Part B separately. This is not working as planned. A manual process of splitting all website content is underway, with a completion goal of February 2014.
10:21 AM, Dec 16, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
Two days before Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius announced on December 11 that she was ordering a comprehensive investigation into the reasons behind the Obamacare launch debacle, HHS announced an upcoming Contracting with CMS Conference with topics such as "The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly of Contract Proposals." Based on Sebelius's testimony before a Congressional committee, her agency's experience with contracts in recent years have included less of the former and more of the latter. CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) is the division of HHS that was largely responsible for hiring contractors to develop and run the federal government's Obamacare marketplace.
Looks like it.5:45 PM, Dec 12, 2013 • By MICHAEL WARREN
On Thursday, the Department of Health and Human Services released a set of "additional steps" designed to "help" Americans get health insurance before the start of the new year. Philip Klein discusses those guidelines over at the Washington Examiner, reporting that HHS is "encouraging" health insurers to accept late and partial payments for insurance plans for the month of January.
8:54 AM, Dec 9, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
Concerns have increased over the security of personal information collected by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as the volume of personal data has multiplied dramatically with the implementation of Obamacare.
2:16 PM, Dec 3, 2013 • By JIM SWIFT
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear two challenges to the constitutionality of the HHS mandate that employer-provided health insurance cover certain reproductive services free of charge even over the employer’s religious objections. Of the many who will be closely watching the high court’s decision, an inner circle consists of the plaintiffs in the 44 suits brought so far by for-profit businesses—plaintiffs like the Gilardi brothers of Sidney, Ohio.
2:44 PM, Nov 20, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
The Department of Health and Human Services revealed on Wednesday a plan to spend up to $7 billion to find ways to reduce spending under the Affordable Care Act while maintaining or improving the quality of health care. The solicitation for bids for this wide-ranging project appeared today on the Federal Business Opportunities website:
'If this were to happen in the private sector, somebody would have probably already lost their job.'7:41 AM, Nov 18, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
Former press secretary Robert Gibbs again called for heads to roll in the government after the botched rollout of the Obamacare website. He made the remarks today on the Today Show:
Nov 11, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 09 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
As surely as the Obamacare rollout has been a disaster, the calls are now ringing throughout Washington, especially in conservative ranks, for Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to resign. It won’t happen. And if The Scrapbook has its way, it shouldn’t happen, either.
3:03 PM, Oct 25, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
A week after THE WEEKLY STANDARD reported that the Obamacare website Healthcare.gov was using a copyrighted web script without attribution, the lines have been quietly added back to the code.
10:44 AM, Oct 24, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
The contractor who helped design the Obamacare website confirmed to Congress this morning that there was "no pilot program" to test healthcare.gov before it went live on Oct. 1:
A member of Congress asked, "Did y'all do any kind of a pilot program on this before it was rolled out?"
"No," said the contractor, "there was no pilot program."
8:01 AM, Oct 22, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
"Bullying doesn't just happen on the playground," so begins an article in an online Health and Human Services (HHS) publication called Let's Talk.
Company to pursue action against HHS for using copyrighted web script.2:06 PM, Oct 17, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
Healthcare.gov, the federal government's Obamacare website, has been under heavy criticism from friend and foe alike during its first two weeks of open enrollment. Repeated errors and delays have prevented many users from even establishing an account, and outside web designers have roundly panned the structure and coding of the site as amateurish and sloppy.
12:29 PM, Oct 14, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
The launch of federal government's Obamacare insurance exchange, Healthcare.gov, has been plagued with delays, errors, and poor website design, even prompting USA Today to call it an "inexcusable mess" and a "nightmare". Now comes another example of why the website's reputation is in tatters. Buried in the source code of Healthcare.gov is this sentence that could prove embarrassing: "You have no reasonable expectation of privacy regarding any communication or data transiting or stored on this information system." Though not visible to users and obviously not intended as part of the terms and conditions, the language is nevertheless a part of the underlying code for the "Terms & Conditions" page on the site.
1:23 PM, Oct 4, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
A portion of the website of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) was apparently hacked as long as two months ago. SAMHSA is an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). HHS also runs the new Obamacare insurance marketplace, Healthcare.gov.