President Obama is directing his cabinet to find more efficient, “smarter” ways to run government in his second term just two days after his administration opened the door to widespread fraud in the roll out of health care exchanges this fall.
The president met with his Cabinet Monday morning and afterward announced a new push to use technology to make government more responsive to the American people.
Obama recalled the technology his 2008 campaign used to help supporters get involved and encourage others through push messages on smart phones and over social media.
When he entered the White House, he said he hoped to harness similar technologies to help cut through bureaucratic red tape and help businesses apply for grants and compete for contracts and government to respond to its citizens more quickly.
“Instead of an operation humming along on technology, I had to fight really hard just to keep my Blackberry,” Obama said just before noon in the State Dining Room.
“As anyone knows dealing with the federal government is not always high tech or user-friendly.”
The president cited several areas of progress in making “huge swaths of the government more transparent than ever before.” Because of his administration's efforts, he said, victims of natural disasters can apply for federal aid using their computers and Federal Emergency Management Agency officials can better track where the devastation occurred to help serve the communities hardest hit.
Obama said the government under his watch has made more data available online such as the prices different hospitals charge and general weather trends that have helped families save $300 million on their energy bills.
“So we've made some good progress on these fronts, but now we need to do more,” he said, noting that he had directed his cabinet to develop and “aggressive management agenda” that would “deliver a smarter, more efficient, more responsive government” in his second term.
Obama, however, failed to mention the ongoing problems the Department of Veterans Affairs has had in getting veterans' medical records online, part of the administration's failure to address a backlog of more than 600,000 health care claims from veterans.
And, although he talked about how his new health care reforms would allow consumers to compare an “array of private health insurance plans side by side” this fall, he failed to mention the problems the administration has had in breaking down communications barriers between the different agencies to allow them to share information about each applicant looking to enroll in the new health insurance exchange markets.
The push for “smarter” government six months into Obama’s second term comes after the administration announced Friday that it would significantly scale back Obamacare’s requirements that new insurance marketplaces verify consumers income and health insurance status, as the Washington Post reported Friday.
Instead of requiring cross-checking across government agencies such as the IRS to verify consumers’ self-reported income and whether or not they have insurance through their employers, the federal government will rely on what people enrolling for subsidies self-report until 2015, when it plans to have a stronger verification system up and running.
The delay, released on a quiet Friday after the July 4 holiday, followed the administration’s announcement that it would delay for a year the health care requirement that employers with 50 or more full-time workers provide health care coverage or face stiff fines.
Faced with difficulties in ensuring that government agencies, such at the Department of Health and Human Services and the IRS, can cross-check consumers’ reported income and whether they have insurance through their employers, the new regs scaled back mechanisms to check whether people’s information is accurate.