Year 2000 Computing Crisis:

Readiness of Medicare and the Health Care Sector

T-AIMD-99-160: Published: Apr 27, 1999. Publicly Released: Apr 27, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the readiness of automated systems that support the nation's delivery of health benefits and services to function reliably without interruption through the turn of the century.

GAO noted that: (1) the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) and its contractors have made progress in addressing Medicare year 2000 issues; (2) however, until HCFA completes its planned recertification between July and November, the final status of the agency's year 2000 compliance will be unknown; (3) given the considerable amount of work that HCFA faces, it is crucial that development and testing of HCFA's business continuity and contingency plans move forward rapidly to avoid the interruption of Medicare claims processing next year; (4) also, because many states' Medicaid systems are at risk, business continuity and contingency plans will become increasingly critical for these states in an effort to ensure continued timely and accurate delivery of benefits to needy Americans; (5) regarding the health sector overall, while additional readiness information is available, much work remains in renovating, testing, and implementing compliant systems; (6) aggressive action is needed in obtaining information on the year 2000 readiness of hospitals, physicians, Medicare providers, and public health agencies; (7) until this information is obtained and publicized, consumers will remain in doubt as to the year 2000 readiness of key health care components; (8) in addition, while compliance status information is available for biomedical equipment through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clearinghouse, FDA has not reviewed test results supporting manufacturers' certifications; (9) such a review would provide the American public with a higher level of confidence that biomedical equipment will work as intended; and (10) the public also needs readiness information on specific pharmaceutical manufacturers to address concerns about the stockpiling of drugs and medications.

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