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GAO’s take on HealthCare.gov – Plus the 7 Gov Stories

On GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER:

  • “Emotional intelligence.” The phrase conjures the image of a therapist and a couch, but in reality being more emotionally intelligent you can help relieve stress, help you communicate effectively, help you empathize with others, overcome challenges, and defuse conflict. Being emotionally intelligent is one of the keys to mastering your career. We find out how with Tom Fox.


You can find all of our programs online: DorobekINSIDER.com and GovLoop Insights at http://insights.govloop.com.

But up front: GAO’s take on HealthCare.gov


There have been many assessments — or dissections — of what caused HealthCare.gov to… well, to fail. Time magazine had published a comprehensive assessment in February that is still an interesting read.


The Government Accountability Office has just published its analysis — and always able to de-sensationalize a subject, the title of the report: HealthCare.gov: Ineffective Planning and Oversight Practices Underscore the Need for Improved Contract Management. GAO’s testimony: Contract Planning and Oversight Practices Were Ineffective Given the Challenges and Risks.


The number that everybody is gravitating to is $840 million — that is how much HealthCare.gov cost, GAO determined.


From CNN: Healthcare.gov cost $840 million, study finds: The cost of developing the initially-troubled website Healthcare.Gov ballooned to $840 million due to poor planning and management by the federal government, a government audit found. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversaw the error-plagued website launch, “incurred significant cost increases, schedule slips, and delayed system functionality” because of poor oversight of the project, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office released Thursday. Those “cost increases” ran into the tens of millions of dollars, the report found.


There still seems like many lessons to be learned from HealthCare.gov, although most of those lessons are being discussed in hushed tones and in places where few can actually benefit from them.


From the GAO report:


The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) undertook the development of Healthcare.gov and its related systems without effective planning or oversight practices, despite facing a number of challenges that increased both the level of risk and the need for effective oversight…


CMS program staff also adopted an incremental information technology development approach that was new to CMS. Further, CMS did not develop a required acquisition strategy to identify risks and document mitigation strategies and did not use available information, such as quality assurance plans, to monitor performance and inform oversight. CMS incurred significant cost increases, schedule slips, and delayed system functionality for the FFM and data hub systems due primarily to changing requirements that were exacerbated by oversight gaps..


Because of unclear guidance and inconsistent oversight, there was confusion about who had the authority to approve contractor requests to expend funds for additional work. New requirements and changing CMS decisions also led to delays and wasted contractor efforts. Moreover, CMS delayed key governance reviews, moving an assessment of FFM readiness from March to September 2013—just weeks before the launch—and did not receive required approvals. As a result, CMS launched Healthcare.gov without verification that it met performance requirements.


I’m still reading the report. That being said, I would love to hear assessments of lessons learned from a high-profile failure.



The SEVEN stories that impact your life

  1. Nextgov: McDonald Takes Over as VA Secretary Today- “Following his confirmation as secretary of Veterans Affairs by the Senate yesterday, Robert McDonald will be sworn in this afternoon at what looks to me like at a low-key ceremony at VA HQ rather than at the White House with President Obama. VA spokeswoman Victoria Dillon could not provide me with any details on McDonald’s plans for his first full day in office at this time – including whether he plans to follow through with a pledge made at his confirmation hearing to communicate with all VA employees via a videocast his first day on the job.”

  2. FCW: Bipartisan IT procurement overhaul bill unveiled- “A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a bill July 30 that would restructure federal IT procurement by, among other things, establishing a pilot program in the Office of Management and Budget to review select projects for cost overruns. The bill would replace the Office of Electronic Government with the U.S. Digital Government Office, headed by a “strengthened” federal chief information officer, a bill summary said.”

  3. Federal News Radio: Obama cracks down on labor breaches by contractors- “Some companies that earn billions of dollars as government contractors are among the worst violators of U.S. labor laws, yet year after year they keep winning new contracts. So President Barack Obama is aiming to end impunity for labor violators by pushing companies to clean up their act if they want to keep taking federal money.”

  4. Government Executive: House Clears Bill Making it Easier to Fire VA Execs- “The legislation would allow the VA secretary to fire any Senior Executive Service employee — or equivalent Title 38 medical professional — immediately, with paychecks getting cut off the day of the termination. The affected executive would then have seven days to issue an appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board, which in turn would have 21 days for an expedited adjudication. MSPB’s ruling would be final. If the board failed to issue a ruling within the 21-day timeframe, the firing would continue.”

  5. Nextgov: Congress Passed a Cell-Phone Unlocking Bill, But It Won’t Do Much- “Legislation to allow people to “unlock” their cell phones won unanimous support on Capitol Hill and is about to become law. But the bill won’t have much practical effect for most people. Cell-phone carriers already agreed to a voluntary unlocking policy, and the law will only be relevant until the Copyright Office issues new rules on the issue next year.”

  6. DefenseNews: White House Cites Lack of Iron Dome Funding in Supplemental Veto Threat- “The White House said Wednesday that it “strongly opposes” a Republican-crafted emergency spending bill, in part because it contains no funds for an Israeli missile defense system. The Senate earlier in the day began debating a $3.5 billion supplemental spending measure that would send $225 million in emergency dollars to Israel for its Iron Dome missile defense program. A House version is much smaller, and GOP leaders opted against including the Iron Dome funding.”

  7. Politico: House votes to sue Obama- “The House voted along party lines Wednesday to move forward with a lawsuit against President Barack Obama, escalating tension between the executive and legislative branches months before the pivotal midterm elections. The 225-201 vote authorizes Speaker John Boehner to take Obama to court on behalf of the House for delaying a provision in the health care overhaul that requires that most employers provide insurance to their workers. Republicans see the delay as a clear example of Obama overstepping his executive authority.”

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

  • The NSA’s Cyber-King Goes Corporate [Foreign Policy’s Shane Harris] Keith Alexander, the recently retired director of the National Security Agency, left many in Washington slack-jawed when it was reported that he might charge companies up to $1 million a month to help them protect their computer networks from hackers. What insights or expertise about cybersecurity could possibly justify such a sky-high fee, some wondered, even for a man as well-connected in the military-industrial complex as the former head of the nation’s largest intelligence agency? The answer, Alexander said in an interview Monday, is a new technology, based on a patented and “unique” approach to detecting malicious hackers and cyber-intruders that the retired Army general said he has invented, along with his business partners at IronNet Cybersecurity Inc., the company he co-founded after leaving the government and retiring from military service in March.

  • An idea really worth spreading: TED gives all employees a mandatory 2-week summer vacation [FastCompany]: TED is one of the few organizations that grants employees the gift of a forced two-week summer break. Visit TED.com and you’ll see no new TED talks until August 4. Try getting in touch with employees this week, via email, phone, or carrier pigeon. You’ll have some trouble.

  • Decluttering the company [The Economist] Businesses must fight a relentless battle against bureaucracy: The most debilitating form of clutter is organisational complexity. The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) has been tracking this for a representative sample of companies in the United States and Europe since 1955 (when the Fortune 500 list was created). BCG defines complexity broadly to include everything from tiers of management to the numbers of co-ordinating bodies and corporate objectives. It reckons that, overall, the complexity of organisations has increased sixfold since then. There has been an explosion of “performance imperatives”: in 1955 firms typically embraced between four and seven of them; today, as they strain themselves to be kind to the environment, respectful of diversity, decent to their suppliers and the like, it is 25-40.

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