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Posts tagged ‘Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’

WaPost: Obamacare Computers Not Yet Equipped to Fix Errors.


Image: WaPost: Obamacare Computers Not Yet Equipped to Fix Errors

By Newsmax Wires

The HealthCare.gov website is not yet equipped to handle appeals by thousands of people seeking to correct errors the system made when they were signing up for the new federal healthcare law, the Washington Post reported on Sunday.The newspaper, citing sources familiar with the situation, said appeals by about 22,000 people were sitting untouched in a government computer.

“And an unknown number of consumers who are trying to get help through less formal means – by calling the health-care marketplace directly – are told that HealthCare.gov’s computer system is not yet allowing federal workers to go into enrollment records and change them,” according to the Post.

It added that the Obama administration had not made public the problem with the appeals system.

Despite efforts by legal advocates to press the White House on the situation, “there is no indication that infrastructure . . . necessary for conducting informal reviews and fair hearings has even been created, let alone become operational,” attorneys for the National Health Law Program were quoted as saying in a December letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, which oversees HealthCare.gov.

The Post quoted two knowledgeable people as saying it was unclear when the appeals process would become available.

The system is designed to allow people filing appeals to do so by computer, phone or mail. But only mail is currently available, the newspaper said.

Asked to comment, a CMS spokesman said: “As we work to fully implement the appeals system, CMS is working directly with consumers to address concerns they have raised through this process.

“We have found that the appeals filed are largely related to previous system errors, most of which have since been fixed. We are inviting those consumers back to healthcare.gov where they can reset and successfully finish their applications without needing to complete the appeals process,” Aaron Albright said in an email.

“We are also working to ensure that consumers who wish to continue with their appeal are able to do so,” he said.

The healthcare law, known as Obamacare, is designed to provide health coverage to millions of uninsured people in the United States, but was plagued by a botched rollout in October.

The Obama administration said in late January that enrollment soared in recent weeks to about 3 million.

Addie Wilson, 27, of Fairmont, W.Va., said she is paying $100 more a month than she should for her insurance. “It is definitely frustrating and not fair,” she said.

In December, Wilson found herself in a bind. Her old insurance was running out and she needed surgery. The healthcare.gov site was not capable of calculating the federal subsidy due to her and Wilson did not want her coverage to lapse.

She asked a navigator at a federal call center what to do and was advised to sign up, pay the full price, and appeal later. Now, she has discovered there is no system in place to process her appeal.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Healthcare Official Linked to Obamacare Website Woes Retires.


The woman who congressional leaders called out after the meltdown of the Affordable Care Act‘s website retired from public office Tuesday.

Michelle Snyder, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services‘ chief operating officer, has worked in the sector for 40 years and had planned to retire at the end of 2012, said agency head Marilyn Tavenner, who told staff members Snyder agreed to stay for an extra year to “help me with the challenges facing CMS in 2013.”

“Michelle’s accomplishments over her career have been numerous and wide-ranging,” Tavenner wrote, listing a long series of programs and projects Snyder had worked on.

Snyder headed development of HealthCare.gov, which started freezing soon after it debuted in the beginning of October, then crashed altogether. The site temporarily was removed, underwent a rebuild and was re-introduced in November.

CMS Chief Information Officer Tony Trenkle was the first to leave the agency after  Obamacare’s series of pitfalls.

“Michelle Snyder is the one responsible for this debacle,” U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee told Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Capitol Hill during oversight hearings.

Sebelius countered, “Michelle Snyder is not responsible for the debacle. Hold me accountable for the debacle. I’m responsible.”

In a recent statement, House Government Reform and Oversight Chairman and California Rep. Darrell Issa had harsh words for Snyder.

“Documents and interviews indicate Michelle Snyder’s involvement in bypassing the recommendation of CMS’ top security expert, who recommended delaying the launch of HealthCare.gov after independent testers raised concern about serious vulnerabilities from a lack of adequate security testing,” Issa said.

“Americans seeking health insurance,” he said, “are left to shoulder the risk of a website that’s still an all-around work in progress because of the cult-like commitment officials had to the arbitrary goal of launching on Oct. 1.”

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Amy Woods

Obamacare Website Rollout Superviser Announces Retirement.


Michelle Snyder, who supervised the troubled Obamacare rollout, is retiring this week, government officials said Monday, marking the second administration official to step down after the federal insurance exchange launched with numerous problems.

Snyder is leaving as the No. 2 official at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid ServicesThe New York Times reported Monday.

Marilyn Tavenner said Snyder, who is the agency’s chief operating officer, is retiring “after 41 years of outstanding public service.”

Her deputy, Tim Love, will fill the position on an acting basis. Snyder is in charge of day-to-day activities at the agency and of allocation of budget, personnel, and other resources, and as the HealthCare.gov website was being built, technology experts working on it reported directly to her.

Snyder’s retirement comes after Medicare Chief Information Officer Tony Trenkle left in November to take a job in the private sector. Snyder had been prepared to retire at the end of 2012, said Tavenner, but stayed on “at my request to help me with the challenges facing C.M.S. in 2013.”

A former agency official, though, told The New York Times that Snyder “had to go.”
“She was responsible for the implementation of Obamacare,” the official, who was not named, said. “She controlled all the resources to get it done. She was in charge of information technology. She controlled personnel and budget.”

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, at a congressional hearing on Oct. 30, tagged Snyder as the person responsible for developing the Obamacare website, but added that Snyder “is not responsible for those debacles. Hold me accountable for the debacle. I’m responsible.”

CMS has undergone management changes since the botched rollout, but until now, only Trenkle had decided to leave. Meanwhile, Tavenner praised Snyder’s “intelligence, experience and formidable work ethic” in her email announcing the career bureaucrat’s retirement, while not mentioning the Obamacare website itself.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration announced on Dec. 17 that former Microsoft Corp. executive Kurt DelBene was stepping in to oversee the improved HealthCare.gov site, reports Reuters. 

His work will include acting on a report issued by management consultant Jeffrey Zients, a former Office of Management and Budget official who will become head of the National Economic Council in January. Zients said said the website’s issues were caused, in part, by slow decision making, bad management and a lack of accountability among people responsible for getting the site up and running, reports Reuters.

Technicians supervised by Zients fixed or improved more than 400 items on a “punch list” that grew quickly starting the week of Nov. 9.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Sandy Fitzgerald

White House Urged to Name ‘CEO’ to Run Obamacare.


The White House is coming under pressure from some of its closest allies on healthcare reform to name a chief executive to run its federal health insurance marketplace and allay the concerns of insurers after the rocky rollout of Obamacare.

Advocates have been quietly pushing the idea of a CEO who would set marketplace rules, coordinate with insurers and state regulators on the health plans offered for sale, supervise enrollment campaigns and oversee technology, according to several sources familiar with discussions between advocates and the Obama administration.

Supporters of the idea say it could help regain the trust of insurers and others whose confidence in the healthcare overhaul has been shaken by the technological woes that crippled the federal HealthCare.gov insurance shopping website and the flurry of sometimes-confusing administration rule changes that followed.

The advocates include former White House adviser Ezekiel Emanuel, the brother of President Barack Obama’s former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, and the Center for American Progress, the Washington think tank founded by John Podesta, the president’s newly appointed senior counselor.

The White House is not embracing the idea of creating a CEO, administration officials said.

“This isn’t happening. It’s not being considered,” a senior administration official told Reuters.

Some healthcare reform allies say the complexity of the federal marketplace requires a CEO-type figure with clear authority and knowledge of how insurance markets work.

Obama’s healthcare overhaul aims to provide health coverage to millions of uninsured or under-insured Americans by offering private insurance at federally subsidized rates through new online health insurance marketplaces in all 50 states and in Washington, D.C.

Only 14 states opted to create and operate their own exchanges, leaving the Obama administration to operate a federal marketplace for the remaining 36 states that can be accessed through HealthCare.gov.

The marketplace is now officially the responsibility of the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and its administrator, Marilyn Tavenner. Healthcare experts say there is no specific official dedicated to running the operation.

A CMS spokesman said exchange functions overlap across different groups within the agency’s Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight.

The lack of a clear decision-making hierarchy was identified as a liability months before the disastrous Oct. 1 launch of HealthCare.gov by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co.

Obama adviser Jeffrey Zients, who rescued the website from crippling technical glitches last month, also identified the lack of effective management as a problem.

POTENTIAL CEO CANDIDATES

Former Microsoft executive Kurt DelBene has replaced Zients as website manager, at least through the first half of 2014.

“We’re fortunate that Kurt DelBene is now part of the administration – there’s no one better able to help us keep moving forward to make affordable, quality health insurance available to as many Americans as possible,” Obama healthcare adviser Phil Schiliro said in a statement to Reuters.

The White House appears, for now, to be concentrating on ironing out the remaining glitches in HealthCare.gov to ensure millions more people are able to sign up for coverage in 2014. Good enrollment numbers are seen by both critics and supporters of Obamacare as a key measure of the program’s success.

“So my sense is that they’re not thinking about appointing a CEO in the short term,” said Topher Spiro, a healthcare analyst with the Center for American Progress.

The CEO proposal calls for removing day-to-day control of the marketplace from the CMS bureaucracy and placing it under a leadership structure like those used in some of the more successful state-run marketplaces, including California.

The new team would be managed by a CEO, or an executive director, who would run the marketplace like a business and answer directly to the White House, sources familiar with the discussions say.

They point to insurance industry and healthcare veterans as potential candidates, including former Aetna CEO Ronald Williams, former Kaiser Permanente CEO George Halvorson and Jon Kingsdale, who ran the Massachusetts health exchange established under former Governor Mitt Romney‘s 2006 healthcare reforms. None of the three was available for comment.

Healthcare experts say the idea should have been taken up by the administration years ago.

“It’s the right thing to do. It’s just two years late,” said Mike Leavitt, the Republican former Utah governor who oversaw the rollout of the prescription drug program known as Medicare Part D as U.S. health and human services secretary under President George W. Bush.

“The administration is confronted by a series of problems they cannot solve on their own. They do not possess internally the competencies or the exposure or the information,” he told Reuters.

Emanuel, one of the administration’s longest-standing allies on healthcare reform, recommended a marketplace CEO in an Oct. 22 Op-Ed article in the New York Times, calling it one of five things the White House could do to fix Obamacare.

“The candidate should have management experience, knowledge of how both the government and health insurance industry work, and at least some familiarity with IT (information technology) systems. Obviously this is a tall order, but there are such people. And the administration needs to hire one immediately,” he wrote.

The administration has adopted Emanuel’s four other recommendations: better window-shopping features for HealthCare.gov; a concerted effort to win back public trust; a focus on the customer shopping experience; and a public outreach campaign to engage young adults.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

Fund: Gov’t Needs ‘Clear Guidelines’ on Security Breaches.


Despite pleas from security experts, the federal government declared itself exempt from reporting security breaches on the Obamacare website, National Review Online columnist John Fund said Thursday.

“It declared itself exempt, even though it was begged by security experts, ‘Please, alert people if there is a security breach,'” Fund said on “Fox & Friends.”

Unlike recent security breaches affecting 40 million customers at Target, Fund said the federal government is not required by law to report security breaches. That leaves the public uncertain about the security of the personal information they share when signing up for Obamacare.

“We don’t know right now, except, if we believe the government, that there are any security breaches. Because, legally, they can say, ‘Well, it wasn’t really a security breach. It was something else,'” he said.

Prior to the Obamacare launch, Fund said officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) would not sign off on the security of the website. He said a political appointee at CMS was the one “who actually had to sign the authorization to launch it.”

Fund noted that a bill to address the problem has been introduced by Tennessee Republican Rep. Diane Black. He said it would “force the government to stop this ridiculous posture.”

“We need clear guidelines. And, not because we don’t trust the people in government, but because we want complete transparency. Just like Target had to tell its customers what happened, so, too, should the government,” he said.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Wanda Carruthers

Obamacare Tweaked Yet Again: Sign-up Extended to Christmas Eve.


Americans are being given an extra day to sign up for the Affordable Care Act, with the Obama administration quietly extending the deadline to 11:59 p.m. on Christmas EveThe Washington Post reports.

Government officials and outside IT contractors working on the online marketplace’s computer system made a software change” that automatically gives people the extra day, sources told the newspaper.

The rule change is the latest of the many tweaks that have been made to the healthcare law, which has been plagued by numerous issues, from a botched website launch to the reality that many will have to drop their doctors, despite the president’s promise.

The latest tweak comes weeks after administration officials announced that the website’s glitches had mostly been fixed.

The Post said the unannounced extension is “intended as a buffer in case the website has trouble if a last-minute surge of insurance-seekers proved more than the computer system could handle.”

Sources told the newspaper that the one-day extension is automatic and cannot be overridden by insurers who might object.

Officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency overseeing the health exchange, had no immediate comment.

One insurance industry official told The Post: “Making yet another last-minute change to the rules by shortening an already-tight time period in which to process enrollments makes it even harder to ensure people who have selected a plan are able to have their coverage begin in January.”

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Newsmax Wires

Obamacare Contractor Executives Had History of Failure.


Scores of executives and key personnel working for the main Obamacare contractor were previously associated with American Management Systems (AMS), a firm that had a long history of bungling technology projects at the federal and state levels, The Washington Post reported.
Four companies — part of a federal pool of pre-screened, pre-approved contractors — applied to build the federal healthcare exchange: IBM, Computer Sciences Corp., Quality Software Services, and CGI Federal.
Under intense time pressure (request for proposals went out June 24, 2011)  the contract — which is now worth $293 million — was awarded to CGI Federal by a civil servant in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Office of Acquisition and Grants Management.
The decision was based on CGI’s “technically superior” proposal even though its bid was higher than that of at least of one competitor, the Post reported.
CGI had purchased AMS to gain a foothold in the U.S. government IT contracting business. Before HealthCare.gov, CGI Federal already held 17 other health-related jobs worth over a $100 million.
CGI Federal now holds contracts with about 25 federal agencies.
In selecting vendors, federal officials should have considered the record of predecessor companies. Past performance, however, is not usually key in letting federal contracts.
AMS previously failed on a wide range of IT systems: the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board payroll, a Philadelphia school system payroll and a Mississippi tax job.All told, AMS projects in at least 12 states turned out to be unsatisfactory, according to the Post.

The federal vending process, rather than political favoritism, led to CGI’s gaining the Healthcare.Gov contract. “The selection process was walled off from politics,” the Post reported.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Elliot Jager

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