Rewarding failure: GSA awards big contract to designer of #Obamacare web site

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**Posted by Phineas

Obama foreign policy advisers

GSA contracts oversight team

Because they did such a great job with the federal Obamacare web site, why shouldn’t they be given the chance to compete for billions more of our tax dollars?

FAIRFAX, VIRGINIA, Jul 08, 2014 (Marketwired via COMTEX) — CGI Federal Inc. (CGI) GIB -1.59% CA:GIB.A -1.49% announced today that the General Services Administration (GSA) has chosen the company as a prime contractor under a new contract vehicle known as One Acquisition Solution for Integrated Services (OASIS). The multi-award contract has an unlimited ceiling, allowing CGI to compete for billions of dollars in complex professional services task orders across all agencies in the U.S. federal government.

GSA oversees the business of the federal government, among other things supplying federal purchasers with cost-effective, high-quality products and services from commercial vendors. CGI is one of 74 awardees under OASIS, an “indefinite delivery indefinite quantity” (IDIQ) contract that will allow awardees to compete on a range of program management, management consulting, logistics, engineering, scientific and financial management services. Awardees will also be able to offer technology solutions as an ancillary service. For the first time, agencies will be able to purchase high-value professional services along with supporting IT solutions through a single contract, saving customers time and money.

The Obamacare site rollout was such a fiasco that the Federal government refused to renew its contract with CGI when it expired last February. And this isn’t the only time they’ve been told to go away: the government of the Canadian province of Ontario fired CGI for missed deadlines and a failure to deliver a functional product, an online medical registry.

So, naturally the GSA decides that CGI warrants even more chances to deliver “quality IT solutions.” This being the same GSA that’s managed our dollars so well in the past.

What could go wrong?

via Iowahawk

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Good News: parts of healthcare.gov designed by Putin allies

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**Posted by Phineas

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko

Security holes? What are those? And did you hear about Chris Christie closing a bridge in New Jersey??

U.S. intelligence agencies last week urged the Obama administration to check its new healthcare network for malicious software after learning that developers linked to the Belarus government helped produce the website, raising fresh concerns that private data posted by millions of Americans will be compromised.

The intelligence agencies notified the Department of Health and Human Services, the agency in charge of the Healthcare.gov network, about their concerns last week. Specifically, officials warned that programmers in Belarus, a former Soviet republic closely allied with Russia, were suspected of inserting malicious code that could be used for cyber attacks, according to U.S. officials familiar with the concerns.

The software links the millions of Americans who signed up for Obamacare to the federal government and more than 300 medical institutions and healthcare providers.

“The U.S. Affordable Care Act software was written in part in Belarus by software developers under state control, and that makes the software a potential target for cyber attacks,” one official said.

Belarus has been described as Europe’s last Stalinist country, and apparently they work very hard to prove themselves worthy allies of Moscow. According to Gertz’s article, in addition portions of healthcare.gov’s software being designed by an entity controlled by the Belarussian government, last year that same government successfully hijacked massive amounts of US Internet traffic for nearly a month:

According to the New Hampshire-based security firm Renesys, which discovered the data diversion, throughout February 2013, Internet traffic from the United States was sent to Belarus. The purpose likely was to allow hackers or government agencies to sift for data for financial, economic, or government intelligence.

The data also may have been modified for other purposes before being returned to the original U.S. and other foreign destinations.

The bulk diversion technique is called border gateway protocol hijacking. It involves using a series of network addresses to mask the data diversion through numerous Internet hubs around the world.

Renesys traced the data diversion from Washington to New York and Moscow and finally to Minsk, the Belarusian capital. It was returned to the United States via connections in Moscow, Frankfurt, and New York.

Combine the two and you have a very, very big potential problem. Administration officials of course claimed the site was secure and pooh-pooed the idea that nation-states would want to steal personal information, but that’s disingenuous at best.

First, foreign intelligence agencies would very much like to get their hands on conveniently collected personal information, since it would make the creation of solid cover identities for agents much easier. Second, as the article mentions, both the use of a foreign contractor and the internet hijacking make it very easy to implant altered data and even  malicious code to do… lots of stuff. Remember Stuxnet?

The elephant in the room that the administration isn’t talking about is the real danger in this: the PPACA created a wealth of interconnected networks with the Federal Data Services Hub at the center of the spider’s web. This hub is connected to agencies such as the IRS and Homeland Security. Even if Lukashenko isn’t interested in chatting with Putin about Joe Six-Pack’s cholesterol, you can darn well bet they’re both very interested in any security holes that allow their spies access to these other networks and to others connected to them.

And with the ability to divert traffic and implant clandestine code… Critics are right: the whole site needs to be shut down and vetted from top to bottom. Even if Obamacare is eventually repealed and the system dismantled, it’s a huge risk while it’s still operational.

As Instapundit likes to say, we’re in the best of hands.

Moscow’s.

PS: By the way, the now-fired healthcare.gov site builder, CGI Federal, assured the US government that only US contractors were used. Where was the HHS oversight of this?

PPS: Read the whole thing.

RELATED: Between this and Edward Snowden’s invaluable service to Russian intelligence, do we have any secrets from our enemies at all? Also, on a lighter note, Belarus’ Lukashenko is totally not a paranoid nut. Earlier articles about healthcare.gov security vulnerabilities.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Go ahead, increase the minimum wage. Then, kiss those jobs goodbye.

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**Posted by Phineas

“But at least we won the election! Obama!!”

“But at least we won our minimum wage increase!”

I’ve said time and again that because wages are a cost for businesses, they have to find a way to control them so they can earn a profit that makes it worthwhile to stay in business. Mandate wages that are too high, and companies will find creative ways to trim those costs back down.

Such as replacing the workers with machines:

Fast food doesn’t have to have a negative connotation anymore. With our technology, a restaurant can offer gourmet quality burgers at fast food prices.

Our alpha machine frees up all of the hamburger line cooks in a restaurant.

It does everything employees can do except better:

It slices toppings like tomatoes and pickles immediately before it places the slice onto your burger, giving you the freshest burger possible.

Our next revision will offer custom meat grinds for every single customer. Want a patty with 1/3 pork and 2/3 bison ground to order? No problem.

Also, our next revision will use gourmet cooking techniques never before used in a fast food restaurant, giving the patty the perfect char but keeping in all the juices.

It’s more consistent, more sanitary, and can produce ~360 hamburgers per hour.

The labor savings allow a restaurant to spend approximately twice as much on high quality ingredients and the gourmet cooking techniques make the ingredients taste that much better.

That’s from the web site of Momentum Machines in San Francisco. You can bet all those progressive Bay Area burger-flippers and baristas demanding a $15 per hour minimum wage will be screaming “unfair!” when they find themselves replaced.

Not that I’m some sort of anti-technological Luddite; far from it. But these idio… er, “people” demanding a huge increase in the minimum wage need to recognize that their bosses have choices to make, and one of those choices may well be a very rational decision to cut back hours or eliminate jobs altogether. Is it worth winning a $15 per hour rate, when you wind up collecting nothing?

Keep it up, burger flippers, and you may well pave the way for the return of the automat.

"Forward into the past?"

Forward into the past?

via Melissa Clouthier

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

#Obamacare: insurance companies have no idea who you are

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**Posted by Phineas

"Obamacare has arrived"

“Obamacare has arrived”

Just a glitch, ya know. A glitch that, so far, has left 13,000 people without the coverage they paid for:

Insurance companies are still trying to sort out cases of so-called health insurance orphans, customers for whom the government has a record that they enrolled, but the insurer does not.

Government officials say the problem is real but under control, with orphan records being among the roughly 13,000 problem cases they are trying to resolve with insurers. But insurance companies are worried the process will grow more cumbersome as they deal with the flood of new customers who signed up in December as enrollment deadlines neared.

More than 1 million people have signed up through the federal insurance market that serves 36 states. Officials contend the error rate for new signups is close to zero.

Insurers, however, are less enthusiastic about the pace of the fixes. The companies also are seeing cases in which the government has assigned the same identification number to more than one person, as well as so-called “ghost” files in which the insurer has an enrollment record but the government does not.

But orphaned files — when the insurer has no record of enrollment — are particularly concerning because the companies have no automated way to identify the presumed policyholder. They say they have to manually compare the lists of enrollees the government sends them with their own records because the government never built an automated system that would do the work much faster.

“It’s an ongoing concern,” said Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for the industry trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans. “Health plans can’t process enrollments they haven’t received from the exchange.”

So, you can’t keep the health plan you liked, and now you can’t get the service you were forced to pay for because the government can’t process the records properly.

As Instapundit likes to say, “We’re in the best of hands.”

via Townhall

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Hospital not paying doctors and staff, blames #Obamacare contractor

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**Posted by Phineas

"Obamacare at last!"

“Obamacare reveals its true face”

Oh, this is just grand. On top of all the other problems we’ve suffered through so far with Obamacare, now a hospital treating Medicare patients hasn’t been reimbursed by the government and thus hasn’t been able to pay its staff for weeks. Over Christmas. The blame? Apparently it lies with the same contractor hired by the Obama administration to build the back-end payments system for healthcare.gov:

Dozens of employees at a hospital in northeast Houston have had to make it through the holidays without getting paid for weeks. The CEO of Saint Anthony’s Hospital on Little York is blaming a new Medicare payment contractor for his payroll problems.

Nearly 150 employees, ranging from doctors to nurses and administrators, haven’t been paid in nearly a month, and the CEO says it’s not his fault.

(…)

The hospital is strapped for cash not because its not making money, but because Leday says a new Medicare payment facilitator named Novitas Solutions is taking too way long to pay out Medicare claims to the hospital.

Leday says he’s owed nearly $3 million in payments from Medicare and can’t make payroll.

According to the ABC-13 article, the Texas AMA says that other community hospitals in the state are facing similar payment problems with Novitas. So, what happens to Medicare patients when unpaid doctors stop providing services because they haven’t been paid, or the pharmacists stop filling prescriptions? Aren’t these the very people this anti-constitutional monstrosity of a law was supposed to help? Or should we just make physicians serfs of the state, as one Democrat proposed?

Via Jeryl Bier, who adds this about Novitas’ link to healthcare.gov:

Novitas’s direct connection to Healthcare.gov stems from an emergency, no-bid contract for “financial management services” awarded in August and first reported by THE WEEKLY STANDARD in September.  The services required included accounting, tracking of accounts receivable and accounts payable, documenting funds collected by CMS, and data validation, among other things.  CMS justified the no-bid award because the “prospect of a delay in implementing the Marketplace by the operational date of January 1, 2014, even for a few days, would result in severe consequences, financial and other” and that the services required were “beyond what was initially anticipated and beyond CMS’ currently available resources.”

In light of Novitas’ performance in Houston, I can’t wait to see what this government contractor no-bid crony can do for the whole nation.

PS: There’s a video report at the ABC link.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

New malware hijacks your computer, encrypts files

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**Posted by Phineas

"Shouldn't have opened that email"

“Shouldn’t have opened that email”

This one’s insidious and perfectly timed for the holidays: a malware bomb disguised as an innocent-looking package tracking email:

It’s called cryptolocker ransomware.

Kevin Swindon is with the FBI in Boston.

“I would think about this particular type of malware as what would happen if your computer was destroyed,” Swindon said.

In the past 90 days, thousands of people worldwide have opened a seemingly innocuous link to track a holiday package. Suddenly, all the files on their computer are encrypted.

Joan Goodchild is the editor of “CSO,” Chief Security Officer magazine based in Framingham.

“This is a criminal operation. They are holding your folders and files ransom. We call this ransomware because that is exactly what it is. You need to pay in order to have access to them once again.”

And that’s what the Swansea police department did, paying $750 to unlock their computers. One wonders what happened to the poor schlimazl who first opened that email.

This is also a timely reminder to be careful about what emails you open. I’m sure almost anyone reading this has received “phishing” messages, fakes that look like they’re from real companies, but really want you to log into their fake web site so they can steal your ID and password. Some of them are so badly done, they’re funny, others are pretty slick pieces of work. This is more vicious, hijacking your system and extorting ransom to get it back.

Take my advice: if you receive email from a company where you have an account (such as Amazon, eBay, PayPal, &c…) that looks at all suspicious, don’t open it; instead, forward it to their security address. They’ll let you know if it’s real or not, and they’re very interested in tracking down fraudsters.

To borrow a line from Hill Street Blues, “Let’s be careful out there.”

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

#Obamacare Chronicles: So, you think you now have coverage, eh?

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**Posted by Phineas

"Obamacare has arrived"

“Obamacare has arrived”

Let’s consider an all-too common occurrence in our Brave New World of affordable healthcare for all: You’re one of the many millions of individual insurance buyers who’s had his policy cancelled in the last few weeks, because of the Affordable Care Act and how the Democrats wrote the rules. You’re annoyed, but you sigh and realize you have to go to the Obamacare exchanges — you need the coverage, and it’s the “law of the land.” So, in spite of crashing web sites, higher premiums, bigger co-pays, outrageous deductibles, benefits you don’t need, and smaller provider networks, you finally find a policy you can live with. You grit your teeth, submit your application, and received a confirmation that, as of January 1st, 2014, you will still have health insurance.

Congratulations! You are an Obamacare success story!

Eh… Not so  fast, Doc:

Bob Shlora of Alpharetta, Ga., was supposed to be a belated Obamacare success story. After weeks of trying, the 61-year-old told ABC News he fully enrolled in a new health insurance plan through the federal marketplace over the weekend, and received a Humana policy ID number to prove it.

But two days later, his insurer has no record of the transaction, Shlora said, even though his account on the government website indicates that he has a plan.

“I feel like this: My application was taken … by a bureaucrat, it was put on a conveyor belt and it’s still going around, and it’s never going to leave the building,” he said. “I’ve lost hope. If it happens, great.”

Obama administration officials acknowledged today that some of the roughly 126,000 Americans (1) who completed the torturous online enrollment process in October and November might not be officially signed up with their selected issuer, even if the website has told them they are.

Oops! Must be one of those darned glitches. Curse that Republican obstructionism!

Mr. Shlora’s problem may have to do with what’s called an “834,” something used to convey all the necessary data to set up your account with the insurance company. These are transmitted every evening from by the government to the insurers. Trouble is, many of them are garbage:

Insurers report that, in some cases, 834s are coming in wrong. That’s a much more serious problem than the online traffic bottlenecks that have dominated coverage of the health-care law’s rollout.

If people can’t get into the Web site, then they simply have to come back later. But if they believe they’ve signed up for a plan but their 834 is a garbled mess — or, even worse, clear but wrong — it could mean chaos when they actually go to use their health insurance. For that reason, inside the health-care industry, the 834 problems are the glitch that is causing the most concern.

To back up a moment: 834 transmissions aren’t new. They have been around for decades as the standard form that employers use to tell their insurance companies which workers are on their health insurance plan each month.

An 834 transmission contains enrollment data like an individual’s social security number, their dependents and the plan that they picked. That data is, obviously, critical: If it comes in wrong, an applicant may not get the right plan, or family members may not be covered, or identity may not be verifiable.

In other words, like Mr. Shlora, you could wind up thinking you have coverage when you really don’t. That quote is from a Washington Post article dated October 23rd; Shlora signed up for his plan a full month later, yet was still left uncovered. Apparently those problems haven’t been fixed, in spite of Obama’s “tech surge.”

For the first few weeks after the Obamacare rollout, the insurance industry could handle these problems by fixing the 834s manually, since the web site’s traffic problems meant that only a few applications were getting through, anyway. But, with the front end getting closer to actually working (Most of the time. Kind of.) and with the deadline to apply and pay in order to be covered on January 1st fast approaching, a lot more people are going to be buying plans. Or so the government hopes. And all those people have to have their data sent by that same electronic system.

But ask yourself this: if these 834 problems still aren’t fixed, how many more people are going to buy coverage and then go to the doctor in 2014, only to be told the insurance company has no record of them? When you’re sick and need to see a doctor, the last thing you want to hear is “Wait a few days. A healthcare.gov specialist will get back to you.” The government claims 80% of the 834 problems have been fixed. So, 20% of the potentially hundreds of thousands of people signing up won’t have the coverage they thought they had — or any at all?

If the administration thinks they’re getting bad press now, just wait until that storm hits.

I’ll end with a good question from Mr. Shlora:

“The White House announced that they have met their goal,” he said of the much-touted improvements to the website. “They are taking applications but they aren’t going anywhere. What kind of goal is that?”

Under Obama, Bob, it’s good enough for government work.

RELATED: Speaking of the Obamacare site back-end and 834s, the administration refuses to share data on the error rate for transmissions to insurance companies. Anyone still think they have this problem fixed? Bueller? But, don’t worry: Obama is going to make a speech to reassure everyone that Obamacare is OK and everyone should remain calm.

Footnote:
(1) That’s 126,000 over two months, when the goal is seven million by the end of March. So, with 40% of the enrollment period past, the administration has hit 1.8% of its goal. And some people wonder why Democrats are panicking.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

White House expresses total confidence in #Obamacare web site

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**Posted by Phineas

"Obamacare rolls on"

“The Obamacare Express”

Remember that December 1st deadline to have healthcare.gov actually working? Hey, they even had a tech surge and everything! So, they’re going to be ready and millions will flock to the site, right? Right??

Eh… Well?

White House officials, fearful that the federal health care website may again be overwhelmed this weekend, have urged their allies to hold back enrollment efforts so the insurance marketplace does not collapse under a crush of new users.

At the same time, administration officials said Tuesday that they had decided not to inaugurate a big health care marketing campaign planned for December out of concern that it might drive too many people to the still-fragile HealthCare.gov.

With a self-imposed deadline for repairs to the website approaching on Saturday, the administration is trying to strike a delicate balance. It is encouraging people to go or return to the website but does not want to create too much demand. It boasts that the website is vastly improved, but does not want to raise expectations that it will work for everyone.

In other words, it’s nowhere near ready and, let’s face it, they’re going to find even more bugs as they dig deeper into the system, while some of the fixes are sure to create problems of their own. As of a week ago, the payment system was nonexistent (You don’t get covered until you pay), while the system to pay insurers the subsidy money is months away from being ready.

But, yeah, everything will be copacetic tomorrow.

Via Walter Russell Mead, who has this to say on the potential political consequences:

Remember that many Democrats have cited December 1st (tomorrow!) as the deadline for the website. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but if healthcare.gov isn’t working reasonably well by then, many are contemplating distancing themselves publicly from the law. The White House’s attempts to direct people away from the site on and even after that date can’t be doing much to convince Democrats that the site will be ready. The website may be, as the administration claims, getting better all the time. But if Democrats frustrated with a missed December deadline defect from the administration in the coming weeks, continued, gradual improvement might be too little, too late.

I’m beginning to think Charles Krauthammer may be right: Democrats will be the ones who will put an end to Obamacare, just to try to save themselves.

PS: Back from Thanksgiving with the family. I hope you all had a great day. :)

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Perspective: Building the #Obamacare web site vs winning WWII

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**Posted by Phineas

"First they stormed Normandy, then their own memorial"

And yet Obama can’t build a working web site.

Via Twitchy, FOX’s Bret Baier read an email from a viewer on his show and then posted it to his web site. Obama and his fans liked to compare him to FDR. I wonder how they’ll like it now:

“Putting things in perspective: March 21st 2010 to October 1 2013 is 3 years, 6 months, 10 days.  December 7, 1941 to May 8, 1945 is 3 years, 5 months, 1 day.  What this means is that in the time we were attacked at Pearl Harbor to the day Germany surrendered is not enough time for this progressive federal government to build a working webpage.  Mobilization of millions, building tens of thousands of tanks,  planes, jeeps, subs, cruisers, destroyers, torpedoes, millions upon millions of guns, bombs, ammo, etc. Turning the tide in North Africa,  Invading Italy, D-Day,  Battle of the Bulge, Race to Berlin – all while we were also fighting the Japanese in the Pacific!!  And in that amount of time – this administration can’t build a working webpage.”

Boom.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

#Obamacare opening day: worse than we thought

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**Posted by Phineas

"Obamacare has arrived"

“Obamacare has arrived”

No wonder they could only sign up six people nationwide:

The contractor documents are an up-close look at the asteroid field of issues with the Obamacare launch.

According to the war room notes: On day one, October 1, the system mistakenly rejected 90% of Medicaid applicants. The next day, estimates counted 40,000 people in the HealthCare.gov waiting room, while just 100 people had enrolled. By day three, it was clear that insurers were not getting the data for people who had signed up for their plans.

Systemwide issues were compounded by more isolated problems. On day six, Utah asked to shut down its exchange because the main insurance provider in the state had not been able to set up its template in the system. A few days later, on October 9, contractor notes say that the entire system has skipped some questions or information for 30% of all applicants.

But they’ll have things fixed for the post-Thanksgiving rush to meet the December 15th deadline for having coverage by New Year’s Day. You betcha.

I’d call this a clown-car operation, but then I would have to find a clown to apologize to.

via Bryan Preston, who notes that, even after all the problems, some people are still true believers.

(Where “true believers” means “suckers.”)

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)