National Digest: A roundup of news from across the nation

HEALTH CARE

Accenture chosen for HealthCare.gov fixes

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced Saturday that it had signed a one-year contract with Accenture to make technical improvements to the HealthCare.gov Web site.

The Obama administration decided recently to jettison the IT contractor, CGI Federal, that has been mainly responsible for building and repairing the defect-ridden health insurance marketplace.

Federal officials concluded that CGI had not been effective enough in fixing the computer system underpinning the health care Web site, and Accenture, one of the world’s largest consulting firms, has extensive experience with computer systems. It built California’s health-insurance exchange.

“As CMS moves forward in our efforts to help consumers access quality, affordable health coverage, we have selected Accenture to become the lead contractor for the HealthCare.gov portal and to prepare for next year’s open enrollment period,” the agency said in a statement.

— Amy Goldstein

MEDIA INDUSTRY

Weather Channel seeks public support

The Weather Channel asked its viewers Saturday to urge Congress to intervene in its business dispute with DirecTV, arguing that it can harm public safety if the satellite system pulls the network off the air for nearly 20 million viewers.

The network’s contract with DirecTV expires at the end of Monday. If an agreement on how much DirecTV pays The Weather Channel is not reached by then, TWC likely will stop airing on the system.

The Weather Channel is asking for a “negligible” increase in what DirecTV pays to air the channel, spokeswoman Shirley Powell said. While hoping for an agreement, “right now it’s not looking so good.”

DirecTV notes that there are many other ways its customers can get weather forecasts.

David Clark, president of The Weather Channel, said Saturday he has no problem essentially equating his television network to a public utility. The Weather Channel is part of the NBC Universal stable of networks and is owned by Comcast Corp., the nation’s largest cable company.

The network is essential to television viewers at times of severe weather, he said.

— Associated Press

Idaho plane recovery effort delayed: Bad weather Saturday morning turned back a recovery team attempting to reach the wreckage of a small airplane that went down in the central Idaho mountains in early December. Valley County Sheriff Patti Bolen says a meeting is planned Monday to consider options for reaching the remote crash site and removing the bodies of the five family members who had been onboard. Officials suspended the search for the aircraft in mid-December, but an intensive search by family and friends located the badly damaged aircraft Friday. The single-engine plane carried the 51-year-old pilot, Dale Smith, a software executive from San Jose, Calif.; his son, Daniel Smith and his wife, Sheree Smith; and daughter Amber Smith with her fiance, Jonathan Norton.

Florida chain stops gun rentals after suicides: Shoot Straight, Florida’s largest independent gun-shop chain, has stopped renting guns to prevent its eight Florida ranges from becoming suicide parlors. Khaled Akkawi, founder of the Apopka-based chain, made the decision last month after the latest suicides at one his gun ranges. Shoot Straight joins a growing number of gun ranges across Central Florida that have restricted or prohibited gun rentals to stem the deaths.

— From news services

 
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