Obamacare ‘Tech Surge’ Draws From Google, Oracle

“˜Dozens’ enlisted to help repair HealthCare.gov

National Journal
Sam Baker
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Sam Baker
Oct. 31, 2013, 11:17 a.m.

Tech­no­logy ex­perts from Google and Or­acle are part of the “tech surge” the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has en­lis­ted to help fix the Obama­care en­roll­ment site.

Of­fi­cials from the Cen­ters for Medi­care and Medi­caid Ser­vices said Thursday that it has brought in “dozens” of out­side ex­perts to help re­pair Health­Care.gov. It’s the closest the ad­min­is­tra­tion has come to dis­clos­ing spe­cif­ics about the “tech surge,” which Pres­id­ent Obama an­nounced last week.

CMS said the team in­cludes Mi­chael Dick­er­son, an en­gin­eer from Google, and Greg Ger­sh­man, a “de­veloper and en­tre­pren­eur with ex­per­i­ence run­ning agile de­vel­op­ment teams and cre­at­ing bet­ter user ex­per­i­ences when in­ter­act­ing with gov­ern­ment.”

Both men are tech­nic­ally work­ing for con­tract­ors as they help re­build the site. Tech­nic­al prob­lems have plagued Health­Care.gov since its launch, lock­ing people out of the site and send­ing un­re­li­able in­form­a­tion to in­sur­ance com­pan­ies.

CMS says it still ex­pects to have the site fully func­tion­al by the end of Novem­ber.

“it is no secret that we are on an ag­gress­ive timeline,” CMS com­mu­nic­a­tions dir­ect­or Ju­lie Ba­taille told re­port­ers on Thursday.

Health­Care.gov’s latest prob­lems arose from out­ages at the com­pany whose serv­ers sup­port the site. Those out­ages kept the site off­line while Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­ret­ary Kath­leen Se­beli­us was testi­fy­ing about the site on Wed­nes­day. Over­all, in­clud­ing the ini­tial dis­rup­tions over the past week­end, the site was off­line for more than 36 hours, Ba­taille said.

CMS is in­ten­tion­ally tak­ing the site off­line at times of low us­age — between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. — to im­ple­ment the changes that will help it func­tion, Ba­taille said.

Most health policy ex­perts say that if the site is in­deed ready by the end of Novem­ber — and CMS ex­pects it to im­prove gradu­ally un­til then — the ini­tial rol­lout prob­ably won’t have an es­pe­cially dam­aging ef­fect on over­all en­roll­ment.

Ba­taille said the in­sur­ance mar­ket­place for in­di­vidu­als and fam­il­ies is CMS’ top pri­or­ity, but that the agency also ex­pects to have the sep­ar­ate mar­ket­place for small busi­nesses up and run­ning by late Novem­ber.

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