HHS is woefully behind in preparing for the computer problems associated with the new millennium, a House committee said last week.
But there is a bright spot-sort of.
HCFA Administrator Nancy-Ann Min DeParle said the agency is putting in place contingency plans in case any Medicare contractors are unable to solve their computer problems. The plans include a return to issuing paper claims, DeParle said.
At a press conference, Rep. Steve Horn (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee's government management, information and technology subcommittee, released a mock report card on government agencies' readiness for the year-2000 computer problems. Horn gave HHS a grade of "F," contending the agency is not on schedule to fix its computer problems before 2003. The problems arise because most computers aren't programmed to handle the year 2000. Instead, they read the date as 1900.
According to Horn, fixing the computer problems is now projected to cost the federal government almost $5 billion, nearly $300 million of which would be spent on HHS. That's more than double the original estimates from the Clinton administration.
At a hearing held recently by the House Commerce Committee's oversight and investigations subcommittee, DeParle said HCFA is "close to having a (contingency) plan" in place in case it or its contractors are unable to overcome computer problems. She said she is more concerned about the fiscal intermediaries and the thousands of providers that deal with Medicare and Medicaid than she is about HCFA.
"They got a very slow start," she said.