Doubling Your “IT System” Pleasure

Information Technology Concept

In December 2012, the U.S. Air Force canceled an Information Technology (IT) program that it had been working on since 2005. The Expeditionary Combat Support System (ECSS) was an U.S. Air Force Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system that was designed to merge base level and wholesale logistics systems, and to deliver hard net-savings for the USAF. The Air Force scrapped the program after dumping $1 billion into the project, with no identifiable benefit to the military or to the taxpayer. Furthermore, the project would have required an additional $1.1 billion to fix and the system would not have been completed until 2020.

Why settle for one IT system when you can have two that do the same thing? According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), that is the practice at several federal agencies, which are administering overlapping and duplicative IT systems. The federal government spends more than $82 billion on IT each year, but according to a recent GAO report three agencies have spent $321 million for overlapping IT purposes over the past several years.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spent over $30 million on two IT programs, both of which supported “immigration enforcement booking management, which includes the processing of apprehended illegal aliens suspected of committing criminal violations of immigration law.” The two systems identified by GAO are used by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), but both collect nearly identical biographical data on illegal aliens arrested for committing crimes. However, DHS said it has no plans to address the duplicative expenditures.

Four duplicative IT systems were identified at the Department of Defense (DOD) with a price tag of $30.6 million. Two of these systems were in “Health Care Tracking” and two were in “Dental Management.” Unlike DHS, DOD agreed to work to eliminate the duplicity, but the results are yet to be seen. The most costly duplicative IT systems GAO found are maintained by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) totaling $260.38 million. Four of HHS’s systems related to “Enterprise Information Security,” meaning the systems were used to “maintain and secure the operations and assets of HHS and its components.” Two other duplicative IT systems were used for Medicare coverage and contained similar information by the same contractor. While HHS was reviewing whether it could consolidate the four systems related to Enterprise Information Security, it stated it was too costly to consolidate two systems related to Medicare coverage.

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Information found for this “Your Tax Dollars @ Work” post was done by using a Google search. Information compiled from multiple public websites & media outlets.

The Effects Of Healthcare Dot Gov

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With nearly half-a-billion dollars in government funding put behind promoting a product relatively few people seem interested in purchasing from a website that doesn’t work, Obamacare is perhaps the biggest marketing flop the world has seen in a very, very long time. The cost to build Healthcare dot gov is estimated at $319 million so far. The total amount to be spent nationally on publicity, marketing and advertising will be at least $684 million, according to data compiled The Associated Press from federal and state sources. As the Washington Post reported on Obamacare’s infamous website Healthcare dot gov, when the Web site went live Oct. 1, it locked up shortly after midnight as about 2,000 users attempted to complete the first step.

As time went by, things did not much improve. Fewer than 107,000 people had enrolled in Obamacare as of early November, even though more than 4.8 million Americans were notified their health insurance plans were canceled as a result of the new Obamacare rules and regulations. There were only 23 people per day that enrolled during the first month in the Federal Exchange. And the latest polls show growing opposition to the program, with 57 percent of Americans now opposing the Affordable Care Act, better known as “Obamacare”. President Obama candidly acknowledged what millions of Americans had concluded after trying to use the new HealthCare dot gov website: it was not working: “The rollout of the new health care [website] has been rough, to say the least… We always knew that that was going to be complicated and everybody was going to be paying a lot of attention to it,” he said. “We should have done a better job getting that right on day one — not on day 28 or on day 40.”

A significant part of the response to Healthcare dot gov’s failures, however, has been an intensifying ad campaign. ads based on research about the uninsured have already been popping up on radio, TV and social media. The pitch: If you don’t make much money, the government can pick up some of the cost of your health insurance. If you can afford a policy, by law you have to get one. The unintended punch line is the ads direct the uninsured to sign up for a plan on the website. One health insurance company executive questioned “why would you spend $1 million sending people to a website that’s broken.” A very good question since administration officials were warned by consultants in March that the healthcare dot gov website was “at risk of failure.” Yet the Administration went ahead and signed lucrative contracts with a number of big name Washington PR firms for more than $60 million to promote the site anyway.

In July, HHS (Health and Human Services) inked a $33 million contract with PR giant Weber Shandwick. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid had already signed a $3 million and $8 million contracts. Porter Novelli also has a $20 million contract with the agency. As one Washington PR veteran noted, “you can have the greatest PR program imaginable on all different platforms — social, media, advertising and earned media — but you have to have a product that is functioning”. The states setting up their own health care exchanges “will receive proportionally more federal money for outreach, advertising and marketing than” the states where the federal government is running the program. In those states, “community groups with federal grants will lead the effort” to convince people to sign up.

ABC News showcased what it labeled “The Strangest Ads to Promote Obamacare Sign-Ups.” Topping the list is Minnesota’s ads “using legendary folklore hero Paul Bunyan (and his blue ox Babe) to show Minnesotans that the land of the north is also ‘the land of 10,000 reasons to get health insurance.’” The two appear in a series of ads  “in which the famous lumberjack suffers some kind of typical Minnesota injury — an axe wound, a water ski collision”. Nearly $28 million will be spent promoting Obamacare in Washington. One of the state’s ads has a woman playing “paper, rock, scissors” to escape the attack of a rabid raccoon.

Oregon is spending $10 million advertising Obamacare with advertisements that don’t even mention the program or how to enroll in it. One of the television ads, produced by the Portland advertising agency North, Inc., does not mention the word “insurance” or how or why to enroll in the program. Another Oregon ad does not mention the word “insurance,” but features what appears to be Gumby riding on the Beatles’ yellow submarine. Between Oct. 1 to Nov. 30, however,  just 44 residents were able to sign up for private insurance through Cover Oregon.

Colorado is spending more than $20 million to promote the program hoping to enroll 136,000 patients in health exchange network by the end of March. So far, fewer than 4,000 have been enrolled, though one of the enrollee’s turned out to be a man’s pet dog. The state’s ad campaign compares enrolling in Obamacare to winning at a casino and features an Elvis impersonator. In Kentucky, outreach workers attended a number of bourbon festivals and visited college campuses across the state to make young people aware of the program. California is spending $94 million on its Obamacare enrollment campaign, including “radio and television commercials, highway billboard advertisements, and a number of Twitter and Facebook posts” and promotion at county fairs and street festivals.

Healthcare dot gov features a tool to search through health insurance providers in your area to see how much Obamacare can save you. The catch? The catch is, those prices are all AFTER maximum subsidies are calculated into the price by the website. This is apparently the lack of insecurity you can expect from the folks at HHS and healthcare dot gov.  A level of incompetence and lack of common sense programming I didn’t even think were possible for government until today. Want to see what the prices are without subsidies? Well someone forgot to password the database the prices are fetched from.  If you want to see it in all its glory head on over to data.healthcare.gov and see it for yourself but be sure to hurry before the government shuts it down for showing the truth.

Why do we find ourselves in this healthcare pickle?  How did the federal government get the idea they could insert themselves into our health insurance industry?   People forget that government is force; and that it is force at the point of a gun.  A model for the Obamacare law can be found in the federal seat belt law, requiring car manufacturers to install seat belts in every car, just as the Obamacare law requires insurance companies to place Obama’s requirements into your health insurance policy.

Information found for this “Your Tax Dollars @ Work” post was done by using a Google search. Information compiled from multiple public websites & media outlets.

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