Who’s to Blame for Healthcare.gov?
With 150 days remaining to enroll in a Healthcare Exchange, Healthcare.gov still has some issues. You can find almost a daily update on what’s been happening to fix and improve the website. But do we have a good enough handle on things to start pointing fingers? Or does that matter to the political divide? Can Todd Park help make this a success or was he asleep at the wheel or famous office cot?
Enrollment opened on October 1 with great expectations to deliver healthcare insurance a new way and to more people through the Affordable Care Act. More than 8.1 million consumers visited the site the first four days. By mid month there was no denying the problems and the need to put all hands on deck. Last week Bloomberg reported Obama brought in Todd Park to assist in fixing and the President addressed the nation on the issue. The government also asked the primary contractor for the website development, Montreal-based CGI Group Inc., to assign its “A-Team” to the efforts. And what’s up with that, a major contract from the US Government goes to Canada? But I digress.
And like we were fighting a war on this, of course we can fix it with a “surge”. This one, announced by Secretary Sebelius, a technology surge to bring in industry heavy weights , experts, and specialists to solve this problem. Then to explain everything that is happening HHS released an infographic. The infographic provides a “snapshot of where we are, including technical issues we’re addressing and solutions that our team is putting into place to improve the consumer experience on HealthCare.gov”.
Todd Park, former and first CTO to HHS is now our nation’s CTO taking over for Aneesh Chopra, Obama’s first CTO. Park is the former partner of athenahealth and clearly has the resume to get to the root of the problem. His former partner at athenahealth, Jonathan Bush said “Todd is uniquely thoughtful, dedicated and precise. He’s a manic problem solver, blind to partisanship. If there’s anyone who can fix the problems with the exchanges, it’s Todd.”
Reuters reported that House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa asked Park and White House Chief Information Officer Steve VanRoekel for documents about their involvement in the website’s problems. And Reuters also retained comments about Park and his involvement.
Aneesh Chopra told Reuters that “it would have been inappropriate for Park as a political appointee to be deeply involved in activities like contract procurement and project management of the new Healthcare.gov.”
David Brailer, the first ONC also said “Park’s job would have been removed from the nuts-and-bolts of the contract.” But that does not mean he will be protected from Republicans and some Democrats who say that someone needs to be held accountable for the website fiasco. “I have no doubt he’s probably going to be one of the people they’re trying to blame for this,” Brailer said.
But he is on the team now and those closest to him think he can get the job done. Todd hasn’t tweeted since last Friday and the White House is protecting him from speaking on the matter like he was at the beginning of the month. Secretary Sebilus has testified and taken the responsibility for what she calls the “debacle”.
“You deserve better, I aplogize,” Sebelius said to the public in her opening remarks to the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “I’m accountable to you… I’m committed to earning your confidence back by fixing the site.”