20 Nov 2013

It should surprise no one that the federal health care program’s problems are much deeper than previously thought. Fresh off the heels of last month’s calamitous rollout, The Washington Post reported yesterday that a huge part of the site’s backend isn’t even finished yet. (Not even if you use the government’s definition of finished–there but you can’t use it.)

Henry Chao, the Obama administration official who oversaw the technical development of the federal health insurance marketplace, said Tuesday that his team has yet to complete 30 to 40 percent of the overall project.

Speaking before a subcommittee of the House Energy and Oversight Committee, Chao said the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is still working on a number of “back office” aspects of the project, including a system to send payments to insurance companies.

Parts of the project that users would see — notably the Web portal, — are 100 percent finished, he said. But “the accounting systems, the payment systems, they still need to be” completed, Chao said.

It’s not clear if the the incomplete percentage refers to the backend or the entire project (the story says the former, the headline the latter). What is clear is that Mr. Chao is in hot water. At least the “[p]arts of the project that users would see” are “100 percent finished,” right?