President Obama is bracing Americans for inevitable problems as the Affordable Care Act rolls out this week, but what he calls “glitches” are hardly routine. Information technology is ObamaCare’s Achilles’ heel. The faulty IT will expose Americans to lost data, attempts to enroll online that fail and the risk of fraud.
There are two key technological flaws in ObamaCare. First is the “hub”—the software to link servers at the Treasury Department, the Internal Revenue Service, Homeland Security and state agencies to verify the income and health-insurance status of enrollees and ensure that they are eligible for subsidies. The other flaw is the “portal”—the federally run IT platform that is supposed to let consumers compare health plans and select one that best suits their needs.
In planning ObamaCare’s IT infrastructure, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) dawdled for more than a year under Administrator Donald Berwick until Marilyn Tavenner took over in December 2011. Even then the agency was slow to outsource key contracts and turned to what insiders say were not top-quality programmers. CMS did not sign a contract for a backstop system to process paper verifications and do paper verifications of online applications until July.