Here’s the Obama administration’s plan to fix HealthCare.gov

October 25, 2013
(Photo by Karen Bleier/Getty Images)
( Karen Bleier/Getty Images)

Health and Human Services hosted a call with reporters this afternoon in which they gave one of the clearest run-downs of what is being done to fix HealthCare.gov — and when that will happen. Here are three key takeaways from that briefing.

QSSI will lead efforts to fix the Web site. The technology firm will become a general contractor for the effort to fix HealthCare.gov, overseeing a project that involves lots of other contract companies.

"They are overseeing the entire operation," Medicare spokeswoman Julie Bataille said. "If one issue needs to be addressed, it gets prioritized right away. It makes sense, as they are familiar with the complexity of the system and have done a good job already supporting the federal data hub which is performing as it should have. They  have the expertise to help us address these problems right now."

That federal data hub that Bataille mentioned is a system that essentially ferries data between different agencies and HealthCare.gov. This graphic might also help explain what it is QSSI has been doing so far, which is marked in red below.

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The timeline for functionality: End of November. Jeff Zients, a former administration official brought on to manage HealthCare.gov improvements, repeatedly identified the end of November as the point at which most consumers will be able to use the Web site easily. This is the first time the Obama administration has given a sense of when they expect the site to work better.

"We are confident by the end of the month of November HealthVare.gov will operate smoothly for the vast majority of consumers," he said.

This, perhaps not coincidentally, is the point at which most health-care experts believe the site needs to be up and running without causing serious damage to the Affordable Care Act's first-year open enrollment numbers. It gives shoppers a few weeks to shop for coverage and purchase a plan before Dec. 15, the last day to purchase a plan that begins Jan. 1.

"Punch list" is the new "tech surge." Zients repeatedly mentioned a "punch list" that contains "dozens" of issues that Health and Human Services needs to fix. He thinks they fall into two categories, performance issues and functionality issues.

"The first category are performance problems: Site speed, response time reliability," Zients says. There are also functional problems: "Bugs that prevent the software from working the way it's supposed to."

At the top of those punch list, Zients says, are issues with 834 files, the data that insurance plans get when someone uses HealthCare.gov to enroll in their health insurance plan. Many report that those forms are coming out garbled, with inaccurate information about who has signed up.

"It is at the top of the punch list and will get punched out as fast as it can be done," Zients says. He did not specify any of the other items on the list.

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Sarah Kliff · October 25, 2013