Oba­macare web­site re­pairs to cost $121M Con­trac­tors still rack­ing up bills

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY TOM HOW­ELL JR. AND STEPHEN DI­NAN

Fix­ing the Oba­macare web­site to get it ready to han­dle a sec­ond round of en­roll­ments will cost the federal govern­ment $121 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to Ac­cen­ture, the con­trac­tor hired to re­pair the glitchy web­site af­ter the orig­i­nal con­trac­tor, CGI Federal, was fired in Jan­uary.

The deal, which Ac­cen­ture an­nounced on its web­site Tues­day, costs more than the $93.7 mil­lion it took CGI Federal to build Health­Care.gov in the first place.

It’s also $30 mil­lion more than the govern­ment pro­jected for fixes just a few months ago, when it called in Ac­cen­ture on an emer­gency ba­sis to try to keep Pres­i­dent Obama’s sig­na­ture do­mes­tic law on track.

“There doesn’t seem to be a light at the end of the tun­nel for Oba­macare web­site ex­penses,” said House Over­sight and Govern­ment Re­form Com­mit­tee Chair­man Dar­rell E. Issa, Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can. “De­vel­op­ers are still be­ing brought in to fin­ish build­ing Health­Care.gov, some states are aban­don­ing their own failed sites, and federal tax­pay­ers are still be­ing handed the bills for it all.”

Ac­cen­ture Federal Ser­vices said the con­tract cov­ers the ini­tial re­pair work and build­ing new fea­tures, such as “en­hanc­ing the back-end ca­pa­bil­i­ties to im­prove is­suer pay­ments.”

That an­nounce­ment is likely to add fuel to con­cerns that the “back-of­fice” func­tions of the ex­changes are still glitchy. Among those func­tions are mak­ing sure cus­tomers’ sub­si­dies and pre­mi­ums are cal­cu­lated prop­erly.

“This thing just stinks from top to bot­tom,” said Rep. Michael C. Burgess, Texas Repub­li­can and a fre­quent critic of Oba­macare. He said the added costs lend weight to Repub­li­can ar­gu­ment that the Oba­macare sys­tem was flawed from the start.

He pre­dicted that vot­ers in Novem­ber will re­mem­ber the glitches, cost over­runs and health in­sur­ance poli­cies can­celed be­cause of the law’s strict stan­dards.

Of­fi­cials at the Cen­ters for Medi­care and Med­i­caid Ser­vices, the agency that over­sees the Health­Care.gov web­site, said the new con­tract re­quire­ments in­clude func­tions that were not in­cluded in the ini­tial launch.

The Cen­ters for Medi­care and Med­i­caid Ser­vices this year set aside $45 mil­lion in up­front pay­ments to re­pair the web­site and re­served an additional $45 mil­lion to cover other an­tic­i­pated costs. But Tues­day’s deal, val­ued at $31 mil­lion more than those two num­bers com­bined, is based on an in­formed re­view of the federal ex­change and its needs, of­fi­cials said.

“As CMS moves for­ward in our ef­forts to help con­sumers ac­cess qual­ity, af­ford­able health cov­er­age, we have fi­nal­ized a one-year agree­ment be­gun in Jan­uary with Ac­cen­ture to con­tinue their work on Health­care.gov,” spokesman Aaron Al­bright said in a state­ment. “We are pleased that more than 8 mil­lion con­sumers have en­rolled in a pri­vate plan through the federal Mar­ket­place and look for­ward to con­tin­u­ing to work with Ac­cen­ture to pre­pare for the next open en­roll­ment pe­riod.”

CGI de­clined to com­ment on the Ac­cen­ture con­tract.

“It’s com­mon to see IT projects over-run bud­gets in the Federal Govern­ment. In this case, though, Ac­cen­ture’s as­set might be a White House li­a­bil­ity,” said Dan Men­del­son, CEO of Avalere Health, a Wash­ing­ton-based con­sul­tancy. “The costs of all of these web sites is def­i­nitely adding up, es­pe­cially if you in­clude some of the state ef­forts that haven’t worked out.”

The federal ex­change and var­i­ous state-run por­tals ex­pe­ri­enced wide­spread glitches when they launched in Oc­to­ber, threat­en­ing to kill Mr. Obama’s health care over­haul in its in­fancy.

A tech­nol­ogy surge helped fix many of the prob­lems with the federal ex­change by De­cem­ber, but sev­eral state ex­changes are still deal­ing with web­site prob­lems.

“There doesn’t seem to be a light at the end of the tun­nel for Oba­macare web­site ex­penses.”

— House Over­sight and Govern­ment Re­form Com­mit­tee Chair­man Dar­rell E. Issa,

Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can

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