MOC: how HHS is paying for engagement

Tuesday - 5/25/2010, 9:34am EDT

John Teeter, deputy CIO, HHS

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By Dorothy Ramienski
Internet Editor
Federal News Radio

Health care reform legislation triggered a massive new set of responsibilities for Health and Human Services.

One task is to engage citizens in how health care is changing and make sure their voices are heard.

That citizen engagement, like many reform initiatives, hit after budgets were already set.

At the Management of Change Conference in Philadelphia, Federal News Radio's Tom Temin caught up with John Teeter, the deputy CIO at HHS.

He said there is great opportunity to reach out and determine what the most important topics in the healthcare arena now that health care reform is law.

"One of the big things that we're having to struggle with right now are just the requirements to do certain things very quickly. Once we get beyond that, then we have an opportunity to engage with the citizens and [ask] --'What's the next step?' So, we stand up a website that makes available all of the health plans that are in a particular geographical area for which someone might choose to purchase. Then you start to talk about the costs of that. You start to talk about the priorities within those health plans, and we need to see whether that is something that the citizens are going to really want to have us drill down into and give them some assistance in making the selection."

The site will have a health insurance portal for the Office of Consumer Insurance and Information Oversight. This new group will use the site to actively engage with the public and provide oversight of implementing the law.

"Initially it will probably take the form of different types of online opportunities to [let the public] express their opinions. In the future, we're going to have different types of online engagements -- webcasts, town halls, things of that nature -- where we can actually engage more directly with the public."

He added that one of the goals is to evolve toward the use of GSA's IdeaScale.

Teeter also said that, since it's anticipated that public comment will expand, the Office of Consumer Insurance and Information Oversight will play a big role in gathering together information from all of HHS's existing blogs and online forums.

Another challenge, of course, has to do with the law itself, which is a pretty hefty piece of legislation.

"There are about 457 individual provisions of the new Act. We have taken a look at that, we've categorized all of those, [and] we're starting to drill down into those areas of information technology that might best support that, but the biggest thing is getting the business processes right so that we can engage with the public in a meaningful way within the context of those business processes."

Check out all of Federal News Radio's coverage of the Management of Change conference.