HCFA moves toward Y2K readiness

Official says most systems are compliant

Although much work remains, the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) in Baltimore is moving toward year 2000 (Y2K) compliance, the Y2K coordinator for HCFA said earlier this year.

Joseph Broseker Jr. addressed the Rx2000 Healthcare Year 2000 Special Interest Group conferences held Jan. 22 in New York City and Feb. 5 in Nashville, TN. The Minneapolis-based institute is a nonprofit, member-supported organization helping the U.S. health care system prepare for the year 2000.

HCFA has almost 100 mission-critical systems to prepare for Y2K: 24 internal and 75 external. HCFA not only has to be concerned with working with almost 50 million lines of code and dozens of internal systems staff, but with 70 Medicare contractors, more than 400 managed care organizations, and thousands of data exchange partners.

The sheer number of pieces of the Y2K puzzle — such as software, hardware, telecommunications, and data exchanges — complicates the issue, he says. To help address the problem, HCFA has increased its financial resources, added independent verification and validation, independent testing, and increased oversight.

HCFA has had these three objectives regarding Y2K, Broseker said:

    1. to assure no disruption of delivery of health care services;
    2. to assure no disruption of payment for health care services;
    3. to ensure "business as usual" on Jan. 1, 2000, and beyond.

Medicaid/Managed care verification has begun, he says, and re-certification will occur during 1999. HCFA also is developing contingency plans. The planning covers only HCFA system failure scenarios and not providers’.

HCFA contingency planning focuses on:
o payments to health care providers and managed care organizations;
o unavailability of common working file;
o telecommunication services;
o possible carrier/fiscal intermediary replacement.

HCFA also is intensifying its outreach efforts. HCFA wants the health care community to know the agency’s status on Y2K, Broseker said. HCFA also wants to inform providers of where they need to be and to learn where the providers are. The outreach focus on provider issues includes:
- electronic data interchange format issues;
- provider’s systems;
- provider’s vendor/supplier products;
- medical devices;
- provider’s data exchanges;
- contingency planning.

To establish a dialogue on key Y2K issues, HCFA has formed a speaker’s bureau, Broseker said. The agency also plans to maintain com munication with professional associations, prepare journal articles, and prepare letters to providers.

In addition, HCFA has developed provider education materials on the Web. Pertinent Web sites includes http://www.hcfa.gov/y2k and http://www.fda.gov/cdrh/yr2000/year2000. html.