After shelling out $677 million to build the federal health care website, the government will spend an additional $121 million in 2014 to repair it—$30 million more than previously estimated—the Washington Times reported last night. This comes just as the Obama administration is starting the hunt for next year’s diverse group of contractors.
CGI Federal, the original lead contractor awarded $93.7 million, was replaced by Accenture this past January. Accenture received an initial payment of $45 million—an amount that was supposed to double by year’s end, according to the Washington Post. But yesterday, Accenture Federal Services announced their final agreement of $121 million for work through January 10, 2015.
The search for Accenture’s successor has commenced, and the administration has some specific criteria on its applicants’ gender, race, and socioeconomic status. From the New York Times yesterday:
Federal officials said Monday that they intended to hold a new competition before awarding a contract and that they were particularly interested in responses from small businesses owned by women, disabled veterans and “socially and economically disadvantaged individuals,” including black and Hispanic Americans.
This year, Accenture is tasked with repairs and additions such as “enhancing the back-end capabilities to improve user payments,” according to the Washington Times. The Hill reported in January that the “back end” had to be operational by mid-March, or “disaster” would ensue and the whole law could be “jeopardized.” In fact, that was the main reason Accenture was brought on board so hastily without a full bidding process, The Hill noted.
But last Friday, Politico stated that the back end might not be completed by the summer, detailing what it called an “overlooked chapter” of Obamacare:
Obama administration officials originally intended to have the major back-end components of HealthCare.gov working by the website’s launch in October….
The deadline for completing those pieces gave way to January and then to mid-March. Senior officials said early last month that they hoped to have the entire system ready by the summer. Now, even summer appears to be a question mark.
The scope of Accenture’s work is unclear, since the to-be-determined 2015 contractor is supposed to “overhaul” Healthcare.gov. The New York Times piece points out:
In documents distributed to federal contractors, the administration makes clear that it wants to find a vendor that can overhaul the website under “aggressive time constraints.” Specifically, it wants a company that can “transition a large-scale systems development project” of 400 to 500 employees in three months.
Aside from the sophisticated “back end,” the site is still a calamity from a basic security standpoint. Information security consultant David Kennedy, who testified before Congress on the vulnerabilities of Healthcare.gov, appeared on Fox & Friends on March 31 and announced that it took him just four minutes to access 70,000 enrollees’ records, all without actually hacking the site. The site was “continuing to get worse and hasn’t gotten any better yet,” he said.
Accenture, which has received some criticism and mixed reviews from various outlets for previous contracts and hiring practices, noted yesterday in its press release that they, along with CMS, “will continue to evaluate and assess additional opportunities to deliver further improvements to the customer experience.” What a euphemism if there ever was one.