But in a phone call Tuesday with the nation’s state Medicaid directors, Marilyn Tavenner, director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency overseeing the exchange, said that this part was still not working and did not predict when it would be ready, said Matt Salo, executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors. In the meantime, the Web site simply tells low-income Americans whether they appear to be eligible and then advises them to contact their state’s Medicaid agencies, where they must start applications from scratch.
In a separate lingering problem, officials at the Health and Human Services Department, which oversees CMS, confirmed that the enrollment portion of the Spanish-language version of the online exchange was not working, despite assurances in September that it would be ready by this week. HHS spokesman Joanne Peters urged Spanish speakers to call a toll-free phone number to enroll.
As these fresh evidence of problems emerged, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced in a blog post that the agency had enlisted Jeffrey Zients, a former acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, to help oversee the effort to fix the site’s assorted problems.
The decision to turn to Zients, who also served as the White House’s first chief performance officer, underscores the attention the exchange is receiving from President Obama and his deputies. On Sunday, the administration announced that it had brought in more computer experts, and on Monday, Obama said the problems angered him.
Zients, who had previously worked as part of a White House “SWAT” team to speed up G.I. Bill payments and improve the administration’s “Cash for Clunkers” program, left OMB in April and is slated to rejoin the administration as head of the National Economic Council in January.
In her blog post, Sebelius said that the experts tapped to work on the Web site include “veterans of top Silicon Valley companies” and a few “presidential innovation fellows” from the technology sector who work on federal projects for short stints.
On Friday night, four or five of the fellows showed up at the Herndon offices of CGI Federal, one of the main contractors for HealthCare.gov, according to a person familiar with the project. Another contractor, Terremark, a subsidiary of Verizon Communications, has added servers to spread out the processing load, said two people familiar with the project.