Year 2000 Computing Crisis:

Readiness Status of the Department of Health and Human Services

T-AIMD-99-92: Published: Feb 26, 1999. Publicly Released: Feb 26, 1999.

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Joel C. Willemssen
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the readiness of the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) computer systems overall and of some of its component organizations' systems to function reliably into the next century.

GAO noted that: (1) HHS reported as of December 31, 1998, 83 percent of its mission-critical systems were year 2000 compliant; (2) of its 34 systems remaining to be repaired, 99 percent were reported to be renovated, 81 percent validated, and 77 percent implemented; (3) the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) has been responsive to GAO recommendations, and its top management is actively engaged in its year 2000 programs; (4) to more effectively identify and manage risks, HCFA is relying on multiple sources of information, including test reports, reports from its independent validation and verification contractors, and weekly status reports from its recently established contractor oversight teams; (5) HCFA is also more effectively managing its electronic data exchanges and has more clearly defined its testing procedures; (6) HCFA has demonstrated progress in developing business continuity and contingency plans to ensure that, no matter what, beneficiaries will receive care and providers will be paid; (7) however, HCFA's reported progress on its external mission-critical systems is considerably overstated; (8) key state-administered programs could be affected by the year 2000; (9) these programs--critical to the health and well-being of the needy--are overseen by HHS' Administration for Children and Families; (10) GAO's report on the year 2000 readiness of state systems that support these programs found that, although progress varied, many systems were at risk and much work remained to ensure continuation of services; (11) HHS' Program Support Center provides grants payments and cash management services through its Payment Management System; (12) however, this system is not yet compliant, and it is unclear when it will be; (13) the question of whether medical devices such as magnetic resonance imaging systems, x-ray machines, pacemakers, and cardiac monitoring equipment can be counted on to work reliably on and after January 1, 2000, is critical to the nation's health care; (14) the Food and Drug Administration, which provides information from biomedical equipment manufacturers to the public, had a disappointing response rate from biomedical equipment manufacturers to its request for compliance information; and (15) HHS reports that FDA will continue to explore ways of obtaining compliance information from manufacturers who have not yet replied.

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