- The Washington Times - Monday, December 29, 2014

The Obama administration has awarded Accenture — the technology company that swooped in to help revive HealthCare.gov at the start of this year — a five-year, $563 million contract to continue its work on the federal Obamacare exchange, the company said Monday.

Reeling from a disastrous rollout of the federal website, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in January dropped a key contractor on the project, CGI Federal, and selected Accenture Federal Services to rehabilitate and build out the portal.

The Arlington, Virginia-based subsidiary was charged with enhancing the website and supporting the exchange’s application, eligibility and enrollment functions. Accenture later assisted with the small-business exchange options and states that switched to using the federal marketplace.

“Our work in all of these areas will continue under the new contract, as we continuously enhance the capability supporting citizens, issuers and CMS — focused on simplifying and streamlining the customer experience,” said Matt Tait, a senior managing director in charge of Accenture’s role in the exchange project.

A CMS spokesman said the contract went through an open and competitive selection process and is structured in a way that rewards performance.

Accenture has been an essential member of our team as we focused on delivering a positive consumer experience through HealthCare.gov,” CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner said in the company’s new release. “We are pleased that Accenture will continue to support HealthCare.gov, as we work together to help millions of Americans sign up for quality, affordable health insurance.”

The deal signals a long-term commitment by the administration to the company, which said it “mobilized” 500 people in six weeks to enhance HealthCare.gov at the start of the year, when the administration needed to salvage its first-ever enrollment period.

HealthCare.gov had crashed due to software and capacity issues upon its launch in October of last year, and CGI Federal and other vendors that worked on the project told Congress that the administration seemed to have assembled a flawed puzzle from the intact pieces they provided.

The administration pushed back with criticism of its own and decided not to stick with CGI — it’s contract was set to run out in February — and bring on Accenture.

HealthCare.gov’s technological turnaround resulted in enough sign-ups for the White House to declare victory in the first major test of the contentious law.

The ordeal took its toll on public perception of the law, however, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius resigned after enrollment closed in April, making way for current Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell.

Monday’s contract announcement comes midway through the health care law’s second enrollment period. So far, sign-ups have not been hampered by the type of glitches that affected the first sign-up season.

Administration officials have reported that 6.4 million new and returning customers had selected coverage for 2015 on the federal portal, which serves 37 states, as of Dec. 19. The tally puts the administration well on its way to its own target of 9.1 million customers, although its projection is far short of congressional budget estimates that projected 13 million enrollees for 2015.

The 6.4 million figure is expected to spike significantly when the administration this week releases enrollment figures that include sign-ups among the exchanges runs by 13 states and the District of Columbia.

In announcing the new contract, Accenture boasted that its efforts had helped to create “a successful launch” of the current enrollment season, which ends Feb. 15.

“We appreciate CMS‘ recognition of our hard work and solid results we delivered over the last year to improve HealthCare.gov,” said David Moskovitz, chief executive of Accenture Federal Services.

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