Zero for 3

First Posted: 12/10/2013

It took this country less time to defeat Hitler than it has taken to get a functioning website for people to enroll in President Obama’s signature program, the Affordable Care Act. Actually, the question of how long it takes to get a functioning website for what is often referred to both fondly and derisively as Obamacare remains an unanswered question.

The website is working better, but what were once called glitzes remain.

The federal government isn’t the only one that should have a red face.

In North Carolina, we have our own technical problems at the Department of Health and Human Resources.

There remains issues with an initiative called NC FAST that was intended to consolidate information for welfare recipients that would streamline the receipt of their benefits. The problem is now more than 6 months old and continues to marinate.

This week we learned of additional problems at the Department of Health and Human Resources. An audit reveals that after coming online on July 1, a new North Carolina billing system for Medicaid called NCTracks is still not functioning properly. A private vendor was paid $484 million to build and operate the system, but providers and clients are not happy. Providers say that claim payments are being denied and a vendor-run help desk has been, well, no help.

The local fallout has mostly been with NC FAST, which officials at the Department of Social Services say has delayed the delivery of benefits, especially to people who depend on food stamps. Since 40 percent of the residents of Robeson County receive food stamps, the problem locally is significant.

To their credit, officials at the local Department of Social Services have been proactive and, with the help of the county Board of Commissioners, have stayed out in front of the problem, creating a food bank and also providing vouchers that help families in distress put food on the table. They should all be commended for working to ensure that those among us who need help get that help, , especially during the holiday season,

We don’t know what happened to the idea of fully testing a new system before launching it, but the failures with the Affordable Care Act and NC FAST and NCTracks do nothing to boost the confidence of the public. They haven’t even been pretty good for the low standard of government work.