WASHINGTON--The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) says it is making progress with the Year 2000 computer problem. Known to technowonks as the Y2K problem, it stems from the simple fact that most older computers are programmed to recognize years by their last two digits.
Thus, come January 1, 2000, these computers will interpret "00" as 1900, not 2000, and create chaos if they have not been updated. Some will simply stop running; others will produce erroneous data.
In its latest report to Congress, HHS says it has upgraded 37% of its 289 "mission critical" computer systems, which are necessary for such things as paying Medicare benefits, distributing billions of dollars in grant payments, and collecting and analyzing epidemiologic and clinical trials data.