Friday, December 14, 2012

Federal Health Care Exchange -- Thanks, I Needed a Laugh Today!

I've admittedly been slacking about following what is going on with Obamacare and other governmental issues lately.  However, today I happened across an article that honestly made me laugh out loud.

Only Fifteen States Opt to Run Obamacare Exchanges.  

Apparently there is a deadline of today where the states have to say whether they will run their own healthcare exchange, or whether they will just participate in the one the federal government has to set up.  I'm thinking the feds thought more states would opt to do it themselves.  Well, no such luck.

Here's what is funny.  Enrollment allegedly starts in October 2013.  Ten months away.  Oh, and all exchanges have to be certified by January 1, 2014.
"I am confident that states and the federal government will be ready in 10 months, when consumers in all states can begin to apply," Gary Cohen, director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, told a House panel.

Imagine the breadth of a federal healthcare exchange that has to have the bandwidth and capability to handle people in 30+ states.  Imagine the technology, people, and costs required to design and build such an exchange.  Imagine the technical support and customer service requirements of such an exchange going forward. 

I used to be a management consultant back in the day, so I have some experience with big projects and implementing things like this.  Let me tell you -- ten months is nothing.  Ten months might allow you to set up a basic call center application and software for a company like Ford or Dell -- it certainly wouldn't be enough time to set up one with the complexity and bandwidth to deal with millions of people.  Ten months basically gives you three months for a design phase (where you figure out what it has to do and how it will be done), three or four months to build (software, hardware, etc.), and two months test and train.  Given the complexity of this system, it's a laughable timeframe.   

Some of the states probably realized this, and said screw it:
"I don't envy them for the job that they have," said Dennis Smith, who heads health services in Wisconsin, a state that has decided not to pursue its own exchange.

"At the end of the day, you're trying to connect a buyer to a seller. And the fundamental things required to do that are not yet in place," he said.
Here is what they have to do:
The administration will have to engineer an information technology system capable of processing operations in a way that meet the needs of health care consumers in different states.

Experts say the biggest challenge will likely be providing adequate customer service to handle enrollment, as well as fielding a technology system capable of interfacing seamlessly with the system of each state government.

Cohen told the panel that the administration is building a website with interactive capabilities and a call center and has begun testing a data services hub designed to determine eligibility.
In ten months -- or a year at most.

Think they can do it?  I think this is going to be a disaster, and I think we need to carefully watch the cost of this.  I wonder which private sector technology companies they've hired to do this?  I'm going to have to see if that information is public.  Seems like it should be.  And honestly, the government hasn't exactly proven to be the best at sticking to a budget, cutting costs, and running anything.  Yeah, this is going to be awesome.