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Tag Archive: healthcare.gov

Sunlight Foundation Files its First Freedom of Information Act Lawsuit

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Today the Sunlight Foundation filed its very first Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit. In May 2013, we sent a FOIA request to the General Services Administration (GSA) requesting a copy of all contract notices that had been posted on Fedbizopps.gov since 2000. These notices would allow members of the press, researchers, and our developers to analyze government spending patterns, to look for inaccuracies, corruption, and waste.

Despite our repeated inquiries and reminders, Sunlight never heard back from the GSA about our FOIA request in the more than five months since then. So we decided to take action.

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How Much Did Healthcare.gov Actually Cost?

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The new healthcare exchange site has been the topic of several news stories these past few weeks. Many of them are quoting vastly different numbers for how much it cost to build. You'd think that sites like USASpending.gov or the Federal IT Dashboard1 would be able to give us some idea. But in reality, that's just not how federal spending is reported. healthcare_ladyMuch of government spending is bundled into huge contracts called IDIQs (indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity) that are meant to span many years and may go to multiple recipients. They're a lot like regular contracts except they can have very vague requirements and once the IDIQ itself has been competed, the government no longer has any requirement to compete any contract within that IDIQ. CGI Federal has one of these IDIQ contracts with the Department of Health and Human services. It was signed in 2007, long before the Affordable Care Act became law, and lasts until 2017. Within each IDIQ, the government creates purchase or task orders for specific services, which you can find in the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS). You can see a list of all the task orders for the CGI Federal IDIQ here. Given a few constraints (was the task order post-ACA? does the description sound like it might contribute to healthcare.gov?) I highlighted in blue my guesses at what task orders might be related to healthcare.gov. I think my guesses err on the over-inclusive side. Even so, if you add them up, it's about $70 million. That's not unheard of for a government website and it's certainly far lower than the $600 million cost that has been reported in some places. But the fact that we can't figure it out shows the dire state of federal spending transparency.

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Good enough for government work? The contractors building Obamacare

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The Obama administration dreamed that its health insurance exchanges--the websites that were supposed to make it easy to buy health insurance--would function as smoothly as online consumer sites like Expedia or Amazon.com. But as head-scratching continues about how a famously web-savvy administration could have flubbed its Internet homework so badly, an examination by the Sunlight Foundation shows the administration turned the task of building its futuristic new health care technology planning and programming over to legacy contractors with deep political pockets.

One result: Problem-plagued online exchanges that make it all but impossible for consumers to buy insurance and ...

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Easy Problems, Hard Problems and Healthcare.gov

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a screenshot from healthcare.gov This Reuters article about Healthcare.gov has been getting some attention today. Alas, it's not very good, focusing on client-side optimizations that are probably unrelated to the site's early woes. Healthcare.gov's problems are almost certainly occurring at a deeper level of the system, making it very difficult, if not impossible, for an outsider to gauge their seriousness. To explain, let's do one of those analogy things. Say that Kathleen is planning a birthday party for herself.

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