Information Technology (IT) problems and ObamaCare

ObamaCare is an IT disaster. Photo: Associated Press

MISSOURI, 2013 – President Obama’s health care initiative is attracting criticism not only from the health care community but also from the IT community.

IT professionals knew the technical disasters would undermine implementation of the program, and now those likely problems are becoming obvious to an even wider range of observers.

The ObamaCare initiative already is critically behind in finalizing requirements. This means IT personnel will have to scramble to write and modify programs to allow the program to interface with other systems.

Remember, ObamaCare is an attempt to implement one of the largest integrated systems ever by the government.

In a recent Forbes article, “Unpublished CRS Memo: Obama Administration Has Missed Half of Obamacare’s Legally Imposed Implementation Deadlines,” Avik Roy explores the emerging problem.

Roy notes, “A requirement for the Secretary to “develop requirements for health plans to report on their efforts to improve health outcomes,” …due on March 23, 2012, has not been met to date. A number of rules that would safeguard the privacy of medical records have either yet to be developed, or have been meaningfully tardy in their arrival.”

“The reason for the delay? “Federal officials said that many insurers and employers needed more time to comply because they used separate companies to help administer major medical coverage and drug benefits, with separate limits on out-of-pocket costs. In many cases, the companies have separate computer systems that cannot communicate with one another.”

Peter Suderman, Senior Editor at Reason Magazine notes, “GAO has provided other reasons to be skeptical about the health department’s competence as well. In a separate report in November, the office also found that HHS was among several government agencies failing to properly assess the cost and effectiveness of internal IT systems. Another GAO report warned that the health department was not exercising sufficient oversight of contractors in its Medicaid audit program. An audit of HHS finances last year by an independent contractor, meanwhile, found that the agency had ongoing material weaknesses in its financial management, owing in part to the department’s size and complexity. HHS has known about some of these weaknesses for years.”

From the technical side, the first step is to identify the requirements relative to each agency involved in the process. This includes the IRS, HHS, Treasury, SSA State Exchanges, Insurance Companies, Corporations, Small Business, and Medicare.

Unfortunately, the number of agencies involved raises the possibility of turf wars, system conflicts, duplication of effort and lack of coordination.

To successfully implement ObamaCare, all of the agencies involved will have to modify their computer systems to interface with other systems and they must be willing to share data.

After organizations identify the requirements, they will have to address the resource requirements. Subject matter specialist will be required to work with the system analyst to define their specific requirements that will include interfaces in order to support day-to-day operations. 

Programmers specializing in whatever language the program uses will have to be found.

Likewise, agencies will have to identify technical and subject matter specialists and writers to develop Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for the end users.

To test and migrate to production, agencies will need numerous types of computers. Most likely, the organizations do not currently have that computer capacity in order to test followed by migration to production. Vendors will probably have to provide hardware and software packages to upgrade existing capabilities.

The magnitude of the endeavor is overwhelming.

The government so far has demonstrated complete inability to implement integrated systems. Veterans suffer due to a backlog of claims because the VA and the Department of Defense lack the ability to communicate and share information.

If two agencies cannot communicate on a fairly straightforward basis, how will multiple agencies address the needs of ObamaCare? 

Why doesn’t Congress invite the IT guru in charge of ObamaCare to appear and present milestones, achievements and goals so they can better understand the incredible size and scope of this technical beast?

The average IT professional knows ObamaCare is a technical disaster. Why don’t our legislative decisionmakers?


However, that’s a place and time that I am from—

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Charles Vandegriff, Sr.

Charles is a fifty-four-year career in technology retiring at the directors level from three major corporations. Followed by three-plus years as a free-lance columnist, published three books, over three hundred speeches to senior organizations, radio interviews, one television commercial and finally married for sixty-five years, four children, seven grandchildren and thirteen great grand children. 

Charles is also a Navy veteran.

Contact Charles Vandegriff, Sr.


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