Dissecting The HealthCare.gov Issues And Fixes – Plus The 7 Gov Stories

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  • Good government comes from good people. Plain and simple. You can’t accomplish anything in government, let alone make it more effective, unless you have the right people in the right jobs. This makes sense, but then why doesn’t the government focus on hiring? Why are Chief Human Capital Officers routinely excluded from a leadership seat? Insights from a new report from the Partnership for Public Service.

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But up front: Dissecting the HealthCare.gov issues – and fixes

The latest in what will undoubtedly be many dissections of what happened with the HealthCare.gov fiasco comes this week from Time magazine.

Time: Obama’s Trauma Team: How an unlikely group of high-tech wizards revived HealthCare.Gov

Last Oct. 17–more than two weeks after the launch of HealthCare.gov–White House chief of staff Denis McDonough came back from Baltimore rattled by what he had learned at the headquarters of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency in charge of the website.

McDonough and the President had convened almost daily meetings since the Oct. 1 launch of the website with those in charge–including Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner and White House health-reform policy director Jeanne Lambrew. But they couldn’t seem to get what McDonough calls “actionable intel” about how and why the website was failing in front of a national audience of stunned supporters, delirious Republican opponents and ravenous reporters.

“Those meetings drove the President crazy,” says one White House senior adviser who was there. “Nobody could even tell us if the system was up as we were sitting there, except by taking out laptops and trying to go on it. For Denis, going to Baltimore was like leaving Washington and visiting a war zone.”

But not even a trip to the war zone produced good intel. According to notes from a meeting in one of CMS’s three war rooms (yes, things were so uncoordinated that there were three), those assembled discussed the fact that “we heard that the capacity”–the number of possible simultaneous users–“was 100,000 people, and there are 150,000 people on it.” Yet five days later, White House chief technology officer Todd Park would tell USA Today that the capacity was 50,000 and that the website had collapsed because 250,000 people tried to use it at the same time. Park, a highly successful–but, for this job, disablingly mild-mannered–health care tech entrepreneur, had been kept out of the planning of the website. In fact, the site’s actual capacity at the time was “maybe a few thousand users,” according to a member of the team that later fixed it.

The SEVEN stories that impact your life

  1. Washington Post: Arizona governor vetoes bill on denying services to gays – “Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) vetoed a controversial bill Wednesday that would have allowed businesses in the state to deny service to gays and lesbians if they felt that serving them would violate their religious rights.”

  2. NYT: Federal Judge Strikes Down Texas’ Ban on Same-Sex Marriage – “A federal judge in Texas struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage on Wednesday, ruling that the laws restricting marriage to a man and a woman violated the United States Constitution and handing gay-rights advocates a major legal victory in one of the nation’s biggest and most conservative states.”

  3. GovExec: More than 134,000 Feds to Telework Next Week – “More than 134,000 federal employees have signed up to participate in telework week starting March 3, according to public-private partnership group Mobile Work Exchange. Total savings from the event will top $11.3 million, according to Mobile Work Exchange’s General Manager Cindy Auten.”

  4. Army Times: Army study gives women taste of combat tasks: “The Pentagon ordered last year that women must have the same opportunities to serve in combat jobs as men, with thousands of positions slated to open to both genders in 2016. Testing at Fort Stewart and other U.S. bases is breaking away from the Army’s longtime standards for physical fitness — pushups, sit-ups and 2-mile runs — to focus instead on battlefield tasks, such as dragging a wounded comrade to safety or installing and removing the heavy barrel of the 25 mm gun mounted on Bradley vehicles.”

  5. National Journal: New Food Labels Will Make You Feel Guilty – “Aside from a much cleaner overall presentation, it’s clear what the new design is intended to do: make you see the calories both in a serving and in the entire package of food.”

  6. Federal News Radio: Key Senate panel to probe federal pay, morale issues – “Tester, speaking at the National Treasury Employees Union annual legislative conference in Washington, D.C., said the committee plans to hold the hearing in the spring.”

  7. FCW: States aiming at NSA might hit contractors – “Legislation introduced in several state legislatures aimed at blunting the National Security Agency’s ability to collect data on U.S. citizens could wind up sideswiping federal contractors, according to federal acquisition industry experts.”

DorobekINSIDER water-cooler fodder… yes, we’re trying to help you make your water-cooler time better too…

  • The Wall Street Journal: Employers Want Your SAT Scores Talk about never escaping your past. It turns out that years of hard work, a good college GPA, and internships may be moot if you did not ace the math section. A report by The Wall Street Journal found that major companies, from Goldman Sachs to Boston Consulting Group, still use SAT scores to gauge the quality of various applicants. However, while companies may find there is a need to use the scores to whittle down potential employees, there is little proof that high SAT scores translate to a good worker, and the College Board says the test is mainly designed in order to ascertain the first-year college aptitude of a student.

  • The New York Times: Syria War Stirs New U.S. Debate on Cyberattacks: Considerations that led President Obama to hesitate about using cyberweapons against Syria reflect larger concerns about a new and untested tactic.

  • At Mobile World, a Sign of Tech Industry’s Shifting Focus | In a sign that the tech industry has moved past computers, Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, will be the most prominent speaker this week at the Mobile World Congress.

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