GAO: Obamacare Website Fixes Approach $1 Billion Mark

Wednesday, 30 Jul 2014 05:33 PM

 

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The price tag for HealthCare.gov, the Obamacare website, is approaching $1 billion even as key features remain incomplete, congressional auditors said.

The budget to get the site ready for the next round of enrollments, starting in November, jumped to $840 million as of March, according to the Government Accountability Office. That's a $163 million increase since December.

The company Accenture, which took over building the site that failed at its introduction last October, is expected to be paid $175 million as of June, an $84 million increase from the estimate in January when it signed a contract.

The data is part of testimony for a congressional hearing Thursday in the Republican-led House. The GAO places blame for the rising price on poor planning and supervision of contractors who built the website for the federal health exchange.

If the management doesn't improve "significant risks remaining that upcoming open enrollment periods could encounter challenges," William Woods, the GAO's director of acquisition and sourcing management, is scheduled to testify, according to prepared remarks released by the Energy and Commerce Committee.

After frantic repairs to HealthCare.gov in October and November, about 8 million people signed up for coverage by the end of the first enrollment period in April. Enrollment for 2015 begins Nov. 15.

The site was built primarily by CGI Group of Montreal. While top Obama administration officials publicly blamed CGI for not meeting the terms of its contract, the company wasn't severely punished, losing only about $267,000 of their fees, Wood is scheduled to testify.

Employees speaking for CGI didn't immediately respond to an email seeking comment. Cheryl Campbell, senior vice president for CGI's U.S. government business, said in October that changing requirements from the Obama administration and a piece of HealthCare.gov built by another contractor contributed to the site's collapse. Her company "has worked diligently to develop the site," she said, and passed eight technical reviews before it opened for business.

While Accenture has been working since January to improve the site, parts of it still doesn't work, according to the prepared remarks for Thursday's hearing, including features intended to allow health insurers to easily exchange financial information with the government.

The result is "hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars wasted on an exchange that is still not ready for prime time," Rep. Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican and the Energy and Commerce Committee chairman, said in an email.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which is in charge of the site, said it agreed with most of the GAO's recommendations to improve management of the project.

"CMS takes its responsibility for contracting oversight seriously and has already implemented contracting reforms that are more extensive than the recommendations in the report, including ending its contract with CGI and moving to a new type of contract with Accenture that rewards performance," Kevin Griffis, a spokesman for the agency, said in an email.


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