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United States Government Medicine Can't Handle Appeals of Errors 208

Posted by samzenpus
from the that's-some-good-work-there-lou dept.
PapayaSF writes "The Washington Post reports that roughly 22,000 people have claimed they were charged too much, steered into the wrong insurance program, or denied coverage, but the website cannot handle appeals. They've filled out seven-page forms and mailed them to a federal contractor's office in Kentucky, where they were scanned and entered, but workers at CMS cannot read them because that part of the system has not been built. Other missing aspects are said to have higher priorities: completing the electronic payment system for insurers, the connections with state Medicaid programs, and the ability to adjust coverage to accommodate major changes such as new babies. People with complaints about mistakes have been told to 'return to the Web site and start over.'"
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  • by ichthus (72442) on Monday February 03, 2014 @07:29PM (#46145661) Homepage
    Yeah, $634 million and counting (as of... way back in 2013-10) ceartainly isn't enough to develop a website. What price would you have us pay, ridiculous, partisan one?
  • by lgw (121541) on Monday February 03, 2014 @07:49PM (#46145805) Journal

    And didn't 3 guys make a working front-end site in a few weeks (the part that lets you browse for coverage). This project went quite well if the goal was to funnel $600 MM into the pockets of well-connected contracting firms, but otherwise it's hard to see how anyone could fail so badly at what's effectively a storefront website. (Yes, the backend's a bitch, and 3 guys couldn't do it in a month, but it's not that hard).

  • by Jaime2 (824950) on Monday February 03, 2014 @07:50PM (#46145809)

    When I worked for a Fortune 50 company, we once had corporate IT charge us $1.7 million to tell us that it would cost $4.5 million to make a simple e-commerce web site for a division that had a catalog of 2000 products and did about 250 orders per day. Everyone on that team was praised and the local GM that refused to go forward with the project was eventually pushed out. The project eventually happened.

    They now have a maintenance team of five people dedicated full time to that web site.

  • by erp_consultant (2614861) on Monday February 03, 2014 @07:50PM (#46145811)

    that the government keeps hiring firms like Accenture. This is not the first time they have been involved in failed government IT projects. Here is just one of many examples: []

    Accenture has learned how to game the system. A system that, for large scale government projects, is very difficult to break into. The contract language makes it very difficult, or impossible, to bid on if you are a small company.

    Both the Democrats and the Republicans know that the procurement system is broken and yet neither one of them have offered any concrete solutions.

    The failure of is not news. It's business as usual. The difference is that affects many people more directly so it has higher visibility. Many of the other failed projects do not have the same direct impact so they appear in the news for a little while and are then swept under the rug.

  • by Frobnicator (565869) on Monday February 03, 2014 @08:04PM (#46145875) Journal

    I agree, I also know people who have saved money. For them it worked out. Yay, them.

    However, I was laid off and needed to use the system in December. Unemployment sucks, especially in the US. In early December I was told my application went through and I would get coverage, and was given a bunch of information that I printed. The second week of January (remember: I was in before the date when I was "guaranteed" to get coverage by Jan 1st) I was told there was an error in the site, all the information had been sent to the wrong place, asked to start the application process over. This is exactly what the original story complained about.

    But that isn't all.

    Saturday (this weekend) I got some snail mail that I was not covered, could not be covered through them, and told that there were numerous errors in my data. (For example, my wife was listed as a paid employee of my wife, a corporation based in my state, and was required to provide six months of pay stubs.) Today I spent most of the day on the phone with agents who could issue apologies but could not issue policies nor modify the data. They again instructed me to apply again (the third time).

    Unfortunately I have some medical needs that cannot be put off, so I'm facing the horrible prospect of being a recently laid off tech worker who is being forced into medical debt while unemployed. (Currently only about $1,800 that would normally be covered by the insurance I lost with the layoff.) My little nest egg is vanishing surprisingly fast as I hunt for a job.

    Just like the original story, I was advised to simply start the process over. Multiple times, including today.

    As is frequently pointed out, the US medical billing system is badly broken.

  • by Electricity Likes Me (1098643) on Monday February 03, 2014 @08:08PM (#46145893)

    It didn't cost $634 million.

    The $600+m is what you get if you simply add up every contract given to the original contractor (CGI Technology and Solutions) since 2007. You know, when Bush was in the Whitehouse. They're a reasonably large, reasonably well-used contractor for things so they do other stuff too.

    Since Congress dicked around with actually providing specific funding for it's creation, the estimate is that it probably cost about $120 million, with an original budget of ~$55 million + auxiliary spending (after changes to the various bills by Congress and states) of $63 million. For a total of ~$120 m. That's probably at the high end.

  • by crunchygranola (1954152) on Monday February 03, 2014 @08:39PM (#46146069)

    Yeah, $634 million and counting...

    Nope. It is more like $174 million [] and counting (still plenty of scratch though).

    For those that don't follow the link (and are unfamiliar with government contracting practices - which is most everybody): CGI Federal was a successful bidder on an HHS umbrella contract in 2007 (Bush Administration, in other words) to provide IT services to HHS, along with IBM, Computer Sciences Corp., and Quality Software Services. These same four companies were the bidders (under said long term contract) for the specific task of site implementation, and the $634 million figure is for all of the services from CGI Federal under that contract. Only 25% of that total, dating back to 2007, was for the website.

  • by approachingZero (1365381) on Monday February 03, 2014 @08:58PM (#46146159) Homepage
    Where did you hear that?

    'The health department has provided some information on spending. It paid $174 million on contracts tied to and supporting technology through August, a sum that jumped to $319 million by the end of October, according to Albright of the Medicare agency.

    The figures suggest a late surge in spending before the website’s opening. Only $18 million was spent in October, Albright said in an e-mail.

    The Medicare and Medicaid agency owes $630 million for the work through September, Julie Bataille, a spokeswoman for the health office, has said. The agency didn’t provide updated information on the amount owed, or obligated, for work since the October debut of' []
  • Nice try (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 03, 2014 @09:18PM (#46146267)

    Obama Reid and Pelosi jammed this law through with absolutely NO Republican input (Republicans wer physically locked out of the rooms where the law was negotiated and written and heve never even been able to get the names of the lobbyists and lawyers and coproprations who were in the meetings with the Democrats, so they are under NO obligation to support it. That said, however, in every year since the GOP took back the House in 2010 they have had SYMBOLIC votes to repeal Obamacare (symbolic because Reid will never bring any such bill for even a VOTE in the senate (to protect his "moderates" from having to take a stand)) and then they have voted to give Obama all the funds to implement Obamacare (much to the outrage of the TEA Partiers).

    Obamacare has been fully-funded; the GOP has failed to repeal it and failed to de-fund it... this is FACT

    In those states where GOP governors have not driven their states further into debt by having their states implement state exchanges, those GOP governors are faithfully following Obama's law. If you think this is "wrong" or "unfair" or a form of "sabotage", do not blame any Republican... blame the Democrats who wrote the law with provisions that specifically enabled this choice of actions. The GOP is obeying the law that the Democrats wrote, Obama Reid and Pelosi are just incompetent.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 03, 2014 @09:24PM (#46146303)

    If you created this huge of a disaster you would have lost the contract, and most likely have to pay back any payments made. You would also be on a virtual blacklist as being completely incompetent.

    Sorry, I have to call Bullshit on this. Shit like that is common place in private sector, too. The bigger the project, the more waste and nonsense. Biggest projects don't even make it. There are fortune 500 companies that pay millions into projects that never get delivered, are delivered with lack of working aspects, or have their scope severely rolled back. But because this information is in private sector, it get's buried away from where the public, or especially the investors might see it.

  • Re:Coders (Score:5, Informative)

    by im_thatoneguy (819432) on Monday February 03, 2014 @09:50PM (#46146449)

    Whoa, there's reason to give the developers a hard time. But Accenture to be fair has been on the job what... 2 weeks? You can't turn around a 3 year project in 2 weeks.

  • by Connie_Lingus (317691) on Monday February 03, 2014 @10:17PM (#46146611) Homepage

    i'm pretty sure they got a decent version [] up and running in a long weekend...I actually used it to scan available plans in my state, the insurers involved, and to run what-if numbers quickly.

    they did a real bang-up job.

  • by litehacksaur111 (2895607) on Monday February 03, 2014 @10:58PM (#46146831)
    What the hell are you talking about. The ACA is based on a heritage foundation outline and was implemented in Massachusetts just fine. You are not forced to buy the most expensive plans. In fact the exchange plans are competitive with the general market plans [] Furthermore, you are discounting all the people who are benefiting from the expansion of Medicaid in states that chose to allow the expansion. The law also provides a solution to the pre-existing condition problem. It also allows kids to stay on their parents plan until age 26 which helps out a lot of college kids. I agree that the law is not perfect, but it sure is a whole lot better than what we had before. You have no facts backing up anything you said. Please stop trying to spread your FUD here.

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