KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Zients Warned Years Ago About Problems With Federal IT

News outlets report on the various approaches being taken to's problems.

The New York Times: Health Website Tests A Tycoon And Tinkerer
Jeffrey D. Zients, a multimillionaire entrepreneur and management consultant, joined the Obama White House in 2009 with a mandate to streamline the federal bureaucracy. A year later, he issued a prescient warning. The government "largely has missed out" on the information technology revolution, Mr. Zients said in a 2010 internal memo. "I.T. projects too often cost hundreds of millions of dollars more than they should, take years longer than necessary to deploy and deliver technologies that are obsolete by the time they are completed," he wrote. These days, Mr. Zients is witnessing that ineptitude up close as the emergency fix-it man charged with righting (Stolberg, 11/10).

The Washington Post: White House Relying More On Insurance Carriers To Help Fix
The White House is increasing its reliance on insurers by accepting their technical help in efforts to repair the problem-ridden online health insurance marketplace and prioritizing consumers’ ability to buy plans directly from the carriers. The Obama administration's broader cooperation with insurers is a tacit acknowledgment that the federal insurance exchange — fraught with software and hardware flaws that have frustrated many Americans trying to buy coverage — might not be working smoothly by the target date of Nov. 30, according to several health experts familiar with the administration's thinking (Eilperin and Goldstein, 11/9).

The Wall Street Journal: Getting Fresh Dose Of 'Agile' Treatment
The contractor hired to fix the troubled online marketplace is assigning programming teams to release multiple software releases each week to fix specific portions of the site, according to the Obama administration. Experts say that focused fixes, conducted by contractor QSSI, could end up doing greater harm to the website if programmers fail to bring a holistic view to the project (Boulton, 11/8).

Marketplace: Fixing Healthcare.Gov Could Open The Door To More Problems
There are two sides to the ill-fated rollout of the Affordable Care Act. The big one, the one we've all been hearing about, is the front end -- the website. The bigger one, quite possibly, is the back end. It's the plumbing of actually making sure people and their policies get matched up at insurance companies and at doctors' offices (Ryssdal, 11/8).

CBS News: Panetta: Obama May Have To Accept Changes To Obamacare If Site Not Fixed Fast
If the site cannot be fixed by the end of November, Leon Panetta said President Obama "may very well have to accept some changes in order to make sure that we can continue to implement it." Panetta, a former Congressman and top aide to President Clinton, ran both the Central Intelligence Agency and Defense Department during Mr. Obama's administration. He said that even though speedy repairs will be tough, the administration doesn't need to take down the federal website where consumers can shop for and purchase health insurance, but that they should be able to fix the system while it is live -- and should have fixed it before the launch (Kaplan, 11/10).

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