Monday, November 29, 2010

Richmond trip recalls past consulting job, a strange experience; Obama wants to freeze federal wages, contractor pay

Well, I passed by an old business “hangout” on Staples Mill Road in Richmond VA, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield (the “Anthem” is new); the IT operation was or has been called "HealthNet". In May 1989, I spent a weekend there copying data to tapes (with IBM mainframe JCL utilities) to prepare the merger of our small company (then called “The Consolidated Consulting Group”) with Lewin-ICF; Lewin has since become a powerhouse consulting firm in health care statistics reporting and interpretation. It has been owned by Quorum and now by the United Health Group.

Even by 1988-1989, IBM had the 3090 (installed at Healthnet BCBS) and it was pretty powerful; it could run million record sorts in a few minutes wall clock.  I remember getting "computer costs" down by sorting and processing sequentially rather than using VSAM.  When we were bought, for a while we used ICF machines like the 4341 (VM) and 4381 (MVS) which were much less powerful than the 3090.

I remember the Sunday afternoon drive on I-95 back to Washington with the reel tapes in boxes in my trunk. Maybe the sunlight heat didn’t hurt them. (These were the days before cartridges, even; I think the tapes had to be created unlabeled.  The whole future of the company was in my car, and riding on whether I did everything right that weekend. I did, and it was pretty simple.)

Near BCBS was an old facility called “The Computer Company” where then Medicaid MMIS work was done (as well as some Medicare). I suspect the facility has been razed and rebuilt with a modern one, but I don’t remember exactly where it was (within a mile or so of BCBS). “The Computer Company” has a website here but I don’t know if it’s the same outfit. It says "We do IT right".

It sticks in my mind that the husband of one of the other consultants worked for the DIA; that flashed back into my mind when I saw that story Saturday about the sudden firing (post on Nov. 27). 

Today President Obama announced his proposal for a freeze on wages of civilian federal employees (as part of deficit control), and this will also affect contractor pay. It does apply to members of the Armed Forces. The President used the word “sacrifice” with a Perot-like flavor. “We have to think about not just the next election but the next generation.”

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