I just got off a conference call with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services featuring Jeff Zients, the former acting director of the Office of Management and Budget who has been brought in to fix the problems plaguing the rollout of President Obama’s health care law. Here is a quick summary of the news from the call:
– Zients said healthcare.gov will be functioning “smoothly” for the vast majority of users by the end of November, which is seen as important date because individuals must enroll by Dec. 15 to obtain coverage starting on Jan. 1.
– CMS has brought in a new general contractor to oversee the fixes to the website, Quality Software Services Inc., which is a subsidiary of insurer UnitedHealth Group and has already done work on the tech implementation. Previously, it was CMS that had been overseeing all the systems.
– Zients said that they have made a “punch list” of dozens of issues plaguing the system, and will be working through them in the coming weeks.
-- Though CMS had insisted on Thursday that the problem with bad enrollment data being sent to insurers was “isolated” (an account contradicted by insurance industry sources), Zients acknowledged it was a major issue and said it was at the top of the punch list.
– Zients said that 90 percent of users can now create an account on healthcare.gov, but only about three out of 10 can successfully complete an application.
– CMS spokeswoman Julie Bataille said that of the 700,000 people who had completed applications, about half came through healthcare.gov, which serves residents of 36 states. As she explained Thursday, completing an application merely means people who have gone through the process of determining their eligibility for federal subsidies. It does not necessarily mean they have actually picked a plan.
-- In the face of repeated questioning from Sarah Kliff of the Washington Post, Bataille and Zients refused to name any individuals or companies involved in the "tech surge" meant to fix the problems. They claimed the individuals wanted to "keep their heads down" and focus on the task at hand.