HCFA COMPLIANT! (..errr...well almost...)

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Check this out ... they say they are compliant because .... well .... there's only a "little" left to do...


-- gideon (gideon@deletetethiszianet.com), February 25, 1999


"Congress Investigates Military-Medical Y2K Efforts"


[snip] Congress Investigates Military-Medical Y2K Efforts 24 Feb 1999, 10:26 AM CST By Robert MacMillan, Newsbytes. WASHINGTON, DC, U.S.A.,

In separate Senate and House hearings today, Congress members heard from both lawmakers and federal agencies about the progress, and sometimes significant lack thereof, in the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) and the armed forces. In a mammoth hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee, General Accounting Office (GAO) Joel C. Willemssen applauded the Department of Health & Human Services' attempts to bring HCFA and its vast Medicare into Year 2000 compliance, but he lambasted the agency for "overstating" its readiness for the date change.

"HCFA's reporting of its readiness for next January sounds quite positive as stated in the most recent HHS Y2K quarterly progress report to (the White House Office of Management and Budget," Willemssen told the committee. "According to this report, dated Feb. 10, as of Dec. 31, 1998, all 25 of HCFA's internal mission- critical systems were reported to be compliant, as were 54 of the 78 external systems. HCFA's progress on its external mission- critical systems is considerably overstated."

Willemssen said HCFA officials claimed the systems were compliant because only "minor problems" existed "that should not take much time to address." However, he said, independent verification contractors found that "the qualifications reported by all systems were critical, most requiring a major to moderate level of effort to resolve."

He also criticized the HCFA for lacking an "integrated schedule that identifies a critical path," and "a formal risk management process."

HCFA Administrator Nancy-Ann Min DeParle told the committee that there are serious concerns remaining, but reemphasized that the 25 systems are compliant, and that "all 78 of our internal mission- critical systems are now certified as Year 2000 compliant, three months ahead of the government-wide deadline of Mar. 31, 1999.

"We readily acknowledge that we got a late start with our Year 2000 problem, and that this has caused considerable concern and criticism," DeParle said. "I must be clear, however, about what HCFA can and cannot do. HCFA pays bills. Providers provide service and send claims to our claims processing contractors once services are delivered... We do not have the authority, ability or resources to step in and fix systems for others, such as states or providers."

DeParle also countered Willemssen on the contingency plans issue, saying efforts are underway to develop such plans, especially to process claims to pay providers, prevent payment errors, fraud and abuse, ensure quality of care and enroll beneficiaries.

She also said that HCFA received $107.1 million in fiscal year 1998 for compliance, but ended up spending $148 million -- $130 million on external systems and $18 million on internal systems. She added that HCFA has received $82.5 million this year for compliance efforts, and will receive an additional $205.1 million from the OMB's Year 2000 emergency fund. She also said that President Clinton has asked for $150 million more in HCFA compliance funding for fiscal year 2000.

Health & Human Services Deputy Inspector General for Audit Services Thomas D. Roslewicz backed up DeParle, testifying that HCFA had planned for independent verification officials to "participate in the remediation process and to 'witness' the certification testing being done by the internal system owners and the Medicare contractors," not to conduct separate tests afterward.

Curtis Lord, chief executive officer (CEO) of First Coast Service Options -- Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, told the committee that contractors are making weekly reports to the HCFA on "the resolution of any self-certification qualifications." He said that significant progress has been made on making sure Medicare benefits still are sent out after Jan. 1, 2000.

Lord also lobbied the committee to resist passing legislation that the HCFA has asked for to restructure the Medicare contracting process because, among other reasons, could "make much worse" contractors trying to become Year 2000-compliant.

Medicare Rights Center Executive Director Diane Archer said her organization is concerned about what Medicare beneficiaries should do to prepare for date change problems.

"Should we advise people to secure an affidavit of Y2K-compliance from their HMOs that is legally admissible in a court of law?" Archer said. "Or, should we recommend that they withdraw from their Medicare HMOs for the three-month period between December 1999 and February 2000 if they wish to avoid the risk of not getting the care they need because of HMO system failures? If not, we wonder how seniors and people with disabilities can protect themselves."

In the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, chairman of the Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem, told the committee that his concerns "about the lack of contingency planning and the long-term implications of Y2K" in US operations "have not dissipated, I am generally encouraged by many of the Y2K efforts..."

On an international basis, he said, "my optimism wanes.

"The financial tempest, which shook the economies of Asia, Russia and South America, has obviously impeded the remediation efforts of these regions," Bennett said. "What's more, Y2K problems cannot be confined within national borders."

Bennett also said that the Defense Department and the armed forces must remember that "Y2K is a fundamentally new challenge. There will be problems."

He said that unstable political situations in other parts of the world could capitalize on potential computer breakdowns, and that the US must "provide tactical warning of military operations, process and fuse data from sensors in command and control nets" and "maintain positive control over ballistic missile forces."

He also said that threats against the US also could maximize their efforts against the country because of Year 2000-related glitches.

"Thinking that we will be so preoccupied with Y2K that we would not notice deliberate malicious intent, terrorists, hackers and other criminals might see Y2K as a prime opportunity to attack pieces of our infrastructure," Bennett said. "Or they might use Y2K-induced infrastructure failures as cover for theft, arson, bombings, etc."

Deputy Secretary of Defense John J. Hamre acknowledged the problem for his agency. "We are an organization with roughly the population of metropolitan Washington, D.C.; the complexity of a small nation; the resources to sustain a global reach; and an information infrastructure that relies heavily on old, legacy computer systems," Hamre said. "The Y2K problem is particularly critical because of DoD's dependence on computers and information technology for its military advantage."

Hamre said that approximately 93 percent of the department's systems should be ready for the date change by Mar. 31, 1999. He added that "our nuclear command and control system has been thoroughly tested and has performed superbly."


-- Kevin (mixesmusic@worldnet.att.net), February 25, 1999.

And here's an excerpt from a December 21, 1998 article on Medicaire:



Responding to claims by Congress and the General Accounting Office, a top technology official at the Health Care Financing Administration said last week that HCFA and the contractors that process Medi-care claims will have computer systems Year 2000-compliant by the end of March.

"Despite what you may read in the [trade newspapers]...we will be ready," John Van Walker, HCFA's senior adviser for technology, told a group of information technology industry officials at a briefing sponsored by the Bethesda, Md., chapter of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association. "We are absolutely positive that our partners will have the systems in place."

HCFA has contracts with more than 60 intermediaries, such as insurance companies, to process some $250 billion worth of claims and medical bills for the Medicare health program for the elderly. Because it manages one of the largest programs in the federal government - one that 40 million Americans rely on for health care - HCFA's management of the Year 2000 problem has received unusual attention from Congress and the White House.


-- Kevin (mixesmusic@worldnet.att.net), February 25, 1999.

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