Repairs by end of November? Private firm to oversee fixes to health care website
WASHINGTON — Nearly a month into the dysfunctional rollout, the Obama administration acknowledged the wide extent of its health care website’s problems Friday and abruptly turned to a private company to oversee urgent fixes. Setting a new timetable, officials said most issues will be repaired by the end of November.
It will take a lot of work, but “healthcare.gov is fixable,” declared Jeffrey Zients, a management consultant brought in by the White House. By the end of next month, he said, there will be many fewer sign-up problems such as computer screen freezes — but he stopped short of saying problems will completely disappear.
The administration also said it is promoting one of the website contractors, a subsidiary of the nation’s largest health insurance company, to take on the role of “general contractor” shepherding the fixes.
Quality Software Services Inc. — owned by a unit of UnitedHealth Group — was responsible for two components of the government’s online insurance system. One is the data hub, a linchpin that works relatively well, and the other is an accounts registration feature that initially froze and caused many problems.
Syrian state TV: Leader of al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front killed in coastal province
BEIRUT — Syrian state-run TV reported Friday that the leader of a powerful al-Qaida-linked rebel group has been killed — a claim that if confirmed would be a huge blow to fighters trying to topple President Bashar Assad. At least one rebel commander denied the report.
Questions remained over whether Abu Mohammad al-Golani, head of Jabhat al-Nusra, or the Nusra Front, had indeed died. State TV said he was killed in the coastal province of Latakia, but did not say when or give details. Later Friday, it removed the report from its website without explanation.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which closely monitors the fighting in Syria, said senior Nusra Front leaders contacted by activists in Latakia and the eastern Deir el-Zour province denied al-Golani had been killed.
Other Nusra Front sources said they could not confirm or deny the report “because contact with al-Golani was cut,” the Observatory said in a statement. A rebel commander in a Damascus suburb contacted by The Associated Press said he believed al-Golani was “alive and well” based on his contacts with other fighters including those from Nusra Front. He declined to elaborate or be identified for security concerns.
The report comes as the fragmented rebels have suffered significant losses on the battlefield.
North Dakota bishop exposes churchgoers to hepatitis A virus; health advisory issued
BISMARCK, N.D. — The bishop of the Fargo Catholic Diocese exposed some parishioners at North Dakota churches in Fargo, Grand Forks and Jamestown to the hepatitis A virus in late September and early October.
The state Health Department on Thursday issued an advisory of exposure for anyone who attended any of the five affected churches and took communion from Bishop John Folda, 52. State immunization program manager Molly Howell said the risk is low but officials “felt it was important for people to know about the possible exposure.”
State health officials say they are not sure exactly how many churchgoers might have been exposed. A church official from one affected church said about 25 people there received communion from Folda.
Diocese spokeswoman Aliceyn Magelky told The Associated Press that Folda contracted the liver disease from contaminated food while attending a conference last month in Italy for newly ordained bishops. Folda has taken time off work since Oct. 10 due to the virus, she said.
By wire sources