As time shrinks to stabilize the new federal insurance exchange website, Healthcare.gov, officials announced Thursday that they have enlisted aid from IT heavyweights Oracle, Red Hat and Google.
The recent call for help from the private sector is part of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the organization tasked with the site’s fixes, push to meet a Nov. 30 deadline for stability.
“As part of the ‘Tech Surge,’ we’ve added key personnel from the government and private sector, including expert engineers and technology managers,” said Julie Bataille, director of communications at CMS in a Health and Human Services blog entry.
Without giving specifics about the roles of the new additions, Bataille said the added private-sector support would be dedicated to the federal government’s 24/7 effort to secure the site.
When asked to elaborate Friday, Richard Olague, a spokesperson for CMS, declined to comment and instead referred to Bataille’s original blog statement that identifies the reps from the three IT companies. Michael Dickerson, a site reliability engineer at Google, and Greg Gershman, a developer entrepreneur with a background in “agile” management of development teams as well as government collaboration.
According to Bataille’s blog statement, Dickerson has been tasked to work with the site’s general contractor, QSSI, in order to improve the site's reliability.
“He has expertise in diving into any layer of the tech stack, from the metal to the application code to the people that write it,” Bataille said of Dickerson.
Gershman will be put to work optimizing the site’s performance while also developing processes that will allow HealthCare.gov to make improvements more quickly, Bataille said.
Both Google and Red Hat declined to comment on CMS’ call for private IT help.
In contrast, at a shareholders’ meeting Friday, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison told USA Today that the company saw the federal government’s need to secure the site as similar to the needs of any of its IT clients.
"Most of us want to see our government operating efficiently and effectively, and it is incumbent upon us to help them do that," Ellison said.
The site remains a political lightning rod for the Obama administration, who promoted the website as the enrollment gateway to the president’s government health-care overhaul, also known as Obamacare.