Health IT

Amazon takes up HealthCare.gov role

screen capture of HealthCare.gov site

Note: This story has been updated.

Big changes are in store for HeathCare.gov when the next open enrollment period begins in November, according to two articles that offer inside looks into the coding and infrastructure work on the site.

One of the biggest changes is taking place behind the scenes. Amazon Web Services is being brought in to handle cloud hosting for parts of HealthCare.gov, as a subcontractor of HP. AWS capacity will be applied to back-end systems for insurance carrier data, risk assessment data, and parts of the user interface for the front door of HealthCare.gov.

HP continues to supply infrastructure for other pieces of the Federally Facilitated Marketplace alongside Terremark, which held the cloud hosting contract for HealthCare.gov when it launched. CMS is in the process of transitioning from Terremark to HP under a contract awarded in June 2013. Terremark's hosting deal was extended in March to facilitate the transition.

The news came in an article in Wired that profiled some of the software brains behind the reboot of HealthCare.gov and a story in the Wall Street Journal that pointed to changes expected in what is being billed as Marketplace 2.0 – improvements to the public-facing applications of the HealthCare.gov system.

Among the changes is a faster, more stable plan comparison tool, an upgraded identity management system, a new simplified shopping system dubbed "EZ App" that could guide individuals and families with relatively uncomplicated applications through the process with less friction than the original application. According to Wired, most applicants would be able to enroll via the EZ App.

The handful of coders profiled by Wired, dubbed the "Marketplace Light" team, was charged with improving the performance of some of the parts of HealthCare.gov that were particularly strained during its October 2013 launch.  U.S. CTO Todd Park helped recruit a number of team members during the initial "tech surge" that fixed the site, and new recruits were tapped to build new functionality to the site. According to a CMS spokesperson, the team works under government contracts or subcontracts.  Accenture holds the contract on the federally facilitated marketplace – an effort that contracting documents suggest requires hundreds of individuals to support. That one-year contract, awarded after problems with CGI Federal, is scheduled to be rebid in the coming months.

CMS told the Wall Street Journal that testing on changes to the system would begin over the summer, and that despite the overhaul, HealthCare.gov was not going through a "reinvention." Some in industry are concerned that changes to the identity management system could pose problems for consumers renewing coverage. A CMS spokesperson told FCW that, "development is ongoing and elements will only be rolled out once they are tested and approved," and said that work continues on the back end financial management system and the small business enrollment tool.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported that Amazon was taking over as cloud host for HealthCare.gov. FCW regrets the error.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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