NEWS: CNBC: Obamacare bombshell: IT official says HealthCare.gov needs payment feature

November 19, 2013

Subcommittee Learns HealthCare.gov Marketplace Still 30-40 Percent Incomplete, Insurer Payment System Not Yet Built

Industry source: “Like setting up an online bank without setting up a way to make deposits.”

During this morning’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on “Security of HealthCare.gov,” the administration’s point person on building the marketplace revealed that now eight weeks into launch, 30 to 40 percent of the system still needed to be constructed, including the insurer payment system. Chao made the “bombshell” remark during an exchange with subcommittee member Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO). As one industry source told CNBC, “That's like setting up an online bank without setting up a way to make deposits.”

November 19, 2013

Obamacare bombshell: IT official says HealthCare.gov needs payment feature

A crucial system for making payments to insurers from the federal Obamacare marketplace, HealthCare.gov, has yet to be built, a senior government IT official admitted Tuesday.

The official, Henry Chao, visibly stunned Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) when he said under questioning that a significant fraction of that online insurance marketplace has yet to be constructed.

"We still need to build the payments system to make the payments [to insurance companies] in January," Chao said during testimony. That so-called financial management tool was originally supposed to be part of HealthCare.gov when it launched Oct. 1, but officials later suspended its launch as part of their effort to get the consumer interface part of the site ready.

Chao on Tuesday said other areas that need to be built include "the back-office systems, the accounting systems."

Overall, Chao said, about 30 percent to 40 percent of the federal Obamacare marketplace has yet to be developed.

Chao is deputy chief information officer of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency that operates HealthCare.gov.

Chao said the consumer part of that website, which enrolls people in Obamacare insurance plans, is totally built.

"The online application, verification, documentation, plan compare, generating enrollment, that's 100 percent," Chao said.

But the revelation startled some observers. "That's like setting up an online bank without setting up a way to make deposits," an industry source told CNBC. …

Read the full report online here.

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