Jeff Zients, one of President Obama's top economic advisers and now Healthcare.gov head project manager, is naive to think that government contractor Quality Software Inc. will deliver a fully-operational Healthcare.gov by the end of November. Zients' pledge will likely be appended to the long list of the administration's past over-promised, under-delivered commitments.
QSSI doesn't have a solid record of performance as a government contractor. This past June, the Department of Health & Human Services Inspector General issued a critical report on the company's business practices as it related to its management of a testing system that stores personal identifiable data on 6 million Medicare beneficiaries.
The inspector general found that QSSI failed to implement proper controls to secure USB drives on its hardware, and said this failure put data at greater risk from malware, inappropriate access and theft.
QSSI is the systems integrator for Healthcare.gov. The company developed the master switchboard that connects the many databases that verify citizenship, identity and determine eligibility for the health plans. One of QSSI's main responsibilities is to calculate all failure scenarios and develop procedures to handle them without degrading the user experience.
However, Congressional testimony held in early September revealed that QSSI failed to complete this task because of bad management and lack of accountability. QSSI didn't learn from the June IG report.
The administration won't be able to stop the political fallout when it fails to make due on its promise. But it can help soften the damage by delaying the individual tax penalty should QSSI not delivery a fully-operational Healthcare.gov by November 30.