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Improving the online experience for Medicare beneficiaries with WECMS

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

We are working to re-platform and redesign legacy systems for CMS, making it easier for millions of people to get the benefits they need.

90 M

Americans depend on CMS for health benefits


legacy applications migrated and rebuilt in Drupal


O&M support provided to critical healthcare systems

This is some of the best work I’ve seen in over 25 years of web development, done in an extremely complex environment. The stakes are high, and this team is doing a huge lift to make critical health programs easier to access.

Andy Hawks | Team Technical Lead, CivicActions

The challenge

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) provide healthcare benefits to millions of people every year. But the websites and digital tools that help people find and enroll in these programs were built on a myriad of aging technologies and were confusing to navigate. CMS needed to streamline and update its online platforms to improve the customer experience while establishing more efficient backend workflows for agency staff. This was an enormous and complex task, involving the modernization of,, CMS open data portals, and many other public facing apps that serve multiple user groups — including beneficiaries, caregivers, health providers, data professionals, and government stakeholders.

Client goal

When this multi-year transformation is complete, CMS will be able to deliver on its mission more effectively. CivicActions is providing agile development, DevOps, and human-centered design (HCD) services to help the agency:

  • Improve the content editing experience for staff
  • Modernize legacy systems and tools
  • Replace proprietary technologies with open source
  • Support active, informed healthcare consumption


  • User Research
  • Human-Centered Design (HCD)
  • Persona & Scenario Design
  • Accessibility Compliance
  • Content Strategy
  • Workflow & Interaction Design
  • Migration to Open Source
  • Data Migration & Management
  • Data Architecture
  • DevSecOps
  • Agile Development
  • Information Security
  • Service Design
  • Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)

Tools and technologies

  • Drupal 8 / 9
  • Acquia Cloud
  • Docker
  • Github
  • Jenkins CBJ/CBC
  • DKAN
  • U.S. Web Design Standards
  • PHPUnit / Cypress / Behat
  • Google Search Integration
  • VictorOps
  • New Relic / StatusCake

Our approach

Collaboration is the key to success in a project of this scale and complexity. With multiple partner vendors — including Fearless, Lucky Rabbit, KPMG, and Oddball — and disparate stakeholders across many organizational layers, we work hard to keep lines of communication open and be up-front about potential problems.

Balancing stakeholder priorities, user needs, technical complexity, and CMS deadlines, we created a roadmap that minimizes risk and maximizes opportunities for success. Then we went to work on “quick wins” — tasks we could complete right away that would make the biggest difference for users.

Address the holistic customer experience

We knew that each CMS application is part of a huge public-facing ecosystem of digital tools, with many touchpoints. To address the entire experience that a person would have in navigating the systems, we drew on the agency’s own knowledge of their beneficiary community, working with them to refine and document how each person interacts with CMS online. The resulting holistic view helped us identify how we could improve that experience iteratively.

A screenshot of different User Personas, including three examples of "Coming of Agers", and three examples of "Coverage Questioners."
Creating detailed personas helps us understand how various types of people interact with CMS programs.

Adopt a data-driven strategy

To make sure we built the right solutions, we immersed ourselves in the CMS mission from the operational, technical, and UX perspectives. We dug into existing user research, reviewed analytics reports, conducted stakeholder interviews — then created user personas and journey maps to refine the project scope and goals. All this data is managed in a shared repository of user insights and project knowledge, which we refer to as we prioritize the work to be done.

Replace proprietary software with open source

We are “reverse engineering” multiple custom-built Microsoft.NET applications (such as the Medicare Eligibility and Premium Calculator and the congressionally-funded Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) Lookup Tool with modern, open source solutions. As we recreate all these applications in Drupal, we’re making guides and code documentation that outline the entire system — allowing CMS to maintain control of its own technologies and avoid vendor lock-in. We are also migrating CMS open data platforms from Socrata (proprietary) to an open source solution using DKAN 2.

Key outcomes

Clean and useful technology

CMS struggled to make use of technologies built on old, messy code that had been around for years. We are not only modernizing the CMS tech stack, we are documenting how it works and how to use it.

Accessible services for all

508 compliance is required, but we consider accessibility as more than a checkbox. Because CMS serves a population with a proportionately higher level of impairments, we put extra emphasis on accessibility best practices.

Agile delivery at scale

We are managing this project using the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), working iteratively with broad cross-team collaboration across the organization. Value is delivered often, with feedback from stakeholders.

Intuitive digital tools

Beyond CMS websites, we are modernizing cost calculators, finders, mobile apps, interactive map models, open data site applications, and lookup tools that are used by providers and beneficiaries to perform critical healthcare tasks.

Well-informed solution

We apply human-centered design to understand the goals of end users and CMS stakeholders, while layering in a thorough understanding of the policies that underpin each program — so the end results meet real needs.

Ongoing technical support

To improve and maintain the CMS systems, we provide 24x7 operations and maintenance support, editor feature enhancements, guidance content and APIs per executive orders, and new content sections as needed.

Meet the team

Let’s build a public success story.

Get in touch to start.