Big chunk of health law IT work not finished 

Posted: 3:03 pm Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

By Jamie Dupree

Raising more questions about when the Obama health law will be fully operational, a top federal official told Congress today that 30-40% of the IT infrastructure behind the healthcare.gov website still hasn’t been finished.

Testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Henry Chao told lawmakers that “we still have to build the payment system to make payments to insurers in January.”

While that wasn’t new – as Chao said basically the same thing last week in another hearing – the website’s development chief made news on Tuesday afternoon by adding that the work on the “back end” of the computer system that supports healthcare.gov was only 60-70% finished.

At the White House, the public line was basically – there’s nothing to see here.

“The breaking news alert today is actually not breaking news, unless you sort of do that on a monthly basis,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, who repeatedly mocked reporters for asking about the issue.

On a conference call after the White House briefing, HHS officials said the “back end financial management system isn’t essential until 2014.”

“It’s something we do not need on line until the middle of January, given how the payment schedule works,” HHS spokeswoman Julie Bataille told reporters.

“We are on track to do that,” she added.

This part of the infrastructure for the system insures that tax subsidies granted to consumers would be paid to health insurance companies; it does not deal with consumer payments that go directly to the insurance companies.

Here is video from today’s hearing with Henry Chao – while it sounds like he says 60-70% of the IT still needs to be built, he clarifies that later by saying it is 30-40% unfinished.

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