Sebelius calls on inspector general for HealthCare.gov review

Less than two weeks after the Obama administration met its self-imposed deadline to improve HealthCare.gov, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (pictured right) called for the inspector general to examine the site's development.

"I am asking the Inspector General to review the acquisition process, overall program management, and contractor performance and payment issues related to the development and management of the HealthCare.gov website," Sebelius wrote today in a blog post.

Acknowledging the "flawed and simply unacceptable" HealthCare.gov rollout, Sebelius is seeking accountability to prevent future problems and protect taxpayer dollars.

With that in mind, the HHS secretary wants the creation of a new full-time, permanent position at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services: the chief risk officer. The CMS chief risk officer will develop and evaluate risk mitigation strategies for CMS programs.

New efforts to enhance Healthcare.gov also will include regular training updates for CMS employees so they understand best practices for contractor project management and internal communications, according to the blog post.

"While there is still more work to do, HealthCare.gov is working faster, it's responding quicker, and we are able to handle larger volumes of concurrent users," Sebelius said in the post.

In fact, the exchange site has increased capacity for 50,000 concurrent users and 800,000 or more daily visits, Sebelius said in new testimony to the House Committee on Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Health. She cited hundreds of software fixes, hardware upgrades, continuous monitoring, additional technical expertise and a strong management structure for improved user experience with HealthCare.gov.

This morning Sebelius returned to the House Energy and Commerce Committee. At her hearing in late October, the HHS secretary blamed contractors for the rocky launch of the insurance exchanges. This time around, she highlighted the "night and day" improvements for consumers visiting HealthCare.gov and efforts to move the online marketplace forward.

"While we strive to innovate and improve our outreach to consumers, we believe we have created a system that now works smoothly for the vast majority of Americans seeking quality, affordable healthcare coverage," she told the committee.

Highlighting a better working HealthCare.gov, roughly 365,000 people have selected health plans in the online marketplace through the end of November, CMS announced today.

To learn more:
- read the HHS blog post
- check out the CMS announcement
- here's Sebelius' testimony (.pdf)

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