CMS Has More Work to Do to Improve HealthCare.gov

The second open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act went much smoother for consumers signing up for health plans through HealthCare.gov; however, CMS still has much work to do, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

The second open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act went much smoother for consumers signing up for health plans through HealthCare.gov; however, CMS still has much work to do, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

This is not the first time a government report has slammed CMS for its work on the federal marketplace. In January, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released its own report blaming CMS for the poor rollout.

During the first open enrollment, which ran from October 1, 2013, to March 31, 2014, more than 8 million individuals selected a plan through either the federally facilitated marketplace or a state-based one. During past open enrollment period (November 15, 2014, to February 15, 2015) over 8.4 million individuals signed up on the federal marketplace alone.

The GAO report highlighted 3 performance issues that plagued consumers trying to create accounts and enroll during the first open enrollment period: inadequate capacity planning, software coding errors, and lack of functionality. The OIG report also raised concerns about the adequacy of CMS’ “planning and procurement efforts” when creating and launching HealthCare.gov.

“Although CMS was aware of these problems prior to initial launch in October 2013, it proceeded with deployment in order to meet this deadline,” according to the report. “Consequently, consumers attempting to enroll in health plans were met with confusing error messages, slow load times for forms and pages, and, in some cases, website outages.”

Many issues were the result of inadequate implementation of key practices for managing information technology projects, according to the report, such as ineffective management of requirements, inconsistent system testing, and ineffective project oversight. However, CMS has made improvements in some of these areas.

Although there are some system development activities that are still in progress, one area where CMS made progress is in providing consumers the opportunity to now “window shop” using the eligibility and enrollment module, the report acknowledges.