CMS's Decision to Assume Responsibility for HIX Website Project Management Flawed

by Patrick Riley 15 Oct 2013
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In a surprise move early on in the HIX massive IT effort was made by CMS who declared they would assume project oversight and be responsible for ensuring each individually designed database and software was interoperable, or could talk to each other. This was a surprise to over 55 government contractors who were given elements of the HIX IT puzzle for assembly. Now, as criticism mounts and reports from insiders who say, even today the site is only 70% finished, these same government contractors are pointing fingers to both CMS and HHS.

CGI, Inc. for example, the Montreal based firm, was awarded the contract to build out the federal data-hub infrastructure did not get what are called rules for writing software until late this year, and as late as September of this year CMS was making major decisions that delayed software engineers from finishing lines of code on time. Despite these complications, and according to a number of sources, it was well known within CMS that the project was falling seriously behind, Kathleen Sebelius informed Henry Chao, the government official in charge of the HIX effort that "failure was not an option." Both Sebelius and Marilyn Tavenner, the CMS Administrator testified before Congress that "they would be ready" come October 1.

The White House, who was calling the shots clearly, refused to acknowledge any feasible or possible delays as the nightmare began to unfold in September. The political oversight of the project feared so greatly that delays, of any kind, would result in the GOP pouncing on the opportunity to squash, or even repeal, the Affordable Care Act.

Confounding the growing controversey is HHS's refusal to release early enrollment numbers to the public. CMS is equally tight lipped about any discussion of numbers. As the Senate and House grapple with a government shutdown and an imminent fiscal cliff possiblity, both are preoccupied and have not asked for testimony from Sebelius and Tavenner as to what exactly happened and who is to blame. But, it is coming just as soon as a deal is reached to reopen the government. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle want to know "what they knew, and when did they know it." In this case, perhaps either CMS or HHS did not even know the questions to ask.

You can follow me on Twitter @Patrick_FrostHC.

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Comments (1)

By  klara andrian
klara, klara

15 Jun 2017 04:35
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