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Obamacare Data Hub Test Lags Behind Schedule, Report Says

Aug. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Security testing for a new computer system underpinning the U.S. health-care overhaul is behind schedule, leaving little margin for error to meet an Oct. 1 deadline, government auditors said.

Testing of the government’s “data services hub” to support new health insurance marketplaces wasn’t scheduled to begin until yesterday, more than a month behind schedule, the Health and Human Services inspector general said in a report. The testing is necessary for the hub, a computer service built by UnitedHealth Group Inc. subsidiary QSSI, to be certified that it can safely route tax information and other data among the exchanges and federal agencies.

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services “is working with very tight deadlines to ensure that security measures for the hub are assessed, tested and implemented” by Oct. 1 when the online marketplaces called exchanges are scheduled to open. A final decision isn’t due until Sept. 30, the auditors said -- a deadline pushed back from Sept. 4.

CMS “is confident the hub will be operationally secure and it will have an authority to operate prior to Oct. 1,” Marilyn Tavenner, the administrator of the agency, said in a July 31 letter to Kay Daly, the assistant inspector general.

The inspector general’s study was conducted in May “and we have made significant progress in the three months since then,” Brian Cook, a spokesman for Tavenner’s agency, said in an e-mail.

The $267 million computer system is designed to link the databases of seven U.S. agencies to determine which Americans can buy medical coverage and get government subsidies through the online marketplaces. About 7 million people may seek health insurance through the exchanges, a central piece of the Affordable Care Act’s goal of extending coverage to the insured.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Wayne in Washington at awayne3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale at rgale5@bloomberg.net

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