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FCW : November 15, 2013
18 November 15, 2013 FCW.COM Health IT are indeed on the rise in the wake of the site s technical failures. Yet paper enrollment ultimately requires access to the same front-end service that online applicants use. What went right One bright spot has been the perfor- mance of the data hub. The system built by QSSI has been able to con rm Social Security numbers at a rate of 96 percent, according to HHS. The inter- action with Internal Revenue Service computers is reported to be occurring in near-real time, with response rates reported at about a third of a second. Many Republicans in Congress focused their pre-launch ire on the data hub because of the perceived complexity and possible insecurity of sending simultaneous queries to mul- tiple government databases. Early func- tional testing, however, appears to have paid off. Testing with the IRS began in November 2012, and the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration began testing connections to the data hub in Febru- ary 2013, Tavenner said. Yet on Oct. 27, even the data hub took a hit when the data center hosting it lost network connectivity and effec- tively halted the account-creation pro- cess for several hours. The front end of the website --- built with an emphasis on open source, quick load times and scalability --- also was able to meet user demand. While back-end pieces of the system failed, the website remained online even dur- ing the Oct. 1 peak, which Web ana- lytics rm comScore estimated at 2.5 million unique visitors. But that success too was quali- ed. After publicly sharing the code on GitHub for reuse and public input, CMS pulled down the repository in early October, ostensibly because too many critics and would-be contribu- tors thought it represented the entire HealthCare.gov codebase. Who's in charge here? Enormous questions remain about why the other pieces of the system were allowed to launch despite obvi- ous performance and software issues. QSSI s Slavitt said it was not up to him to issue recommendations when communicating the testing results, and he did not know who precisely was in charge of implementing the proj- ect. One day after his testimony, that situation changed dramatically: Zients named QSSI the general contractor on the entire project, taking over from CMS as integrator. In the federal IT community, there has been general dismay that CMS would serve as its own integrator for a project of this scale. Yet the agen- cy does have decades of expertise in the health IT area. Chao told a House committee in July, for example, that the agency serves 50 million Medi- care bene ciaries through its internal IT systems. "We have databases and systems that operate in architectural and technical pattern very similar to what the [health insurance] marketplace requires, including application for enrollment, processing eligibility ver- i cation, checking various sources of data, allowing people to come back in to report life-changing circumstances, working with SSA to remove them when [we] receive a date-of-death notice," Chao said. "I think...CMS has applied this experience to the market- place program." Politics --- and procurement Contractors blamed CMS leaders for a key decision to disable a feature CGI Federal's Cheryl Campbell and Optum's Andrew Slavitt were among the HealthCare.gov contractors who faced tough questions from Congress when the system did not perform as advertised.
October 30, 2013
November 30, 2013