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Julie Boughn: Parsing the IT budget puzzle

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Few IT budgets are larger — or more important — than the one Julie Boughn helps oversee at the Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Boughn is deputy director of the Center for Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program Services, which is charged with using its massive IT budget — $2.4 billion in fiscal 2013 — to ensure that states have the funds to cover Medicaid costs.

It is the HHS budget’s largest IT line item, and Boughn is essentially the final approval for how those funds are spent. As budgets tighten at the federal and state levels alike and as Medicaid’s importance grows with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, problem-solving on the part of Boughn’s team has a direct impact on states’ ability to provide Medicaid services.

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But those kinds of challenges are what drew Boughn to IT in the first place. She said her Aha! moment came when she wrote an economics program on an Atari 800XL while a student at the University of Maryland. She used IT to make her college life easier and then went on to use IT to make parts of the government work better.

"I really enjoy the puzzle aspect," she said. "Some of these problems do not have an obvious path forward. You have to figure out what the destination is, how you get there, and whether laying it out this way or that way leads to the best outcome. I was never interested in IT because it was IT, but I was interested in it because of the efficiencies it allows."

About the Author

Frank Konkel is a former staff writer for FCW.

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