Former SSA chief doubts exchange hub readiness

The former head of the Social Security Administration is scoffing at the idea that new exchange data hub will be ready on time.

The former SSA commissioner, Michael Astrue, said the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services held up work on the hub while trying to get other agencies to chip in on the bill.

"CMS struggled to meet its deadline," Astrue testified Wednesday at a data hub hearing organized by the House Homeland Security cybersecurity subcommittee.

The agency’s “failures and delays” were common knowledge within the Obama administration, but the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was never candid with states when they wrestled with building their own exchanges or letting the feds run things, Astrue said.

The hub is supposed to help the public exchanges get information they can use to verify health benefits program eligibility applications from federal and state agencies, such as the Internal Revenue Service and SSA.

Astrue noted that, in an August report, Daniel Levinson, the HHS inspector general, said required security findings were set to take place the day before implementation.

Levinson devoted just five pages to analyzing the hub performance and only relied on interviews and documents, Astrue said.

“His staff did not even try to use the beta version of the system,” Astrue said.

Kay Daly, an assistant inspector general at the HHS Office of Inspector General, said the sytem will be ready – and secure.

CMS is “working with very tight deadlines,” Daly said.

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