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Contractors Describe Patchwork of Efforts But Blame CMS for Bad Site Rollout

GOP Rep. Murphy: Admin either "shockingly unaware of what was happening...or deliberately misleading our committee and the public."

by
Rodrigo Sermeño

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October 24, 2013 - 4:02 pm
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WASHINGTON – Contractors who worked on the troubled Obamacare website tried to dodge bullets amid political crossfire at a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing Thursday.

In her opening statement Cheryl Campbell, senior vice president of CGI Federal, took partial blame for HealthCare.gov’s problems. But she also noted that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) was the “ultimate responsible party for the end-to-end performance” of the site.

CMS, an agency under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), was tasked with getting the online exchanges off the ground. The website, which Americans in 36 states can use to purchase their own health insurance plans, has come under scrutiny since it launched on Oct.1 for falling considerably short of expectations. Many users have had trouble signing on, getting accurate cost estimates, and completing enrollment on the website.

Campbell blamed a portion of the website created by another contractor, Quality Software Services (QSSI), for the initial bottleneck that prevented users from registering.

QSSI built part of the online registration system that crashed shortly after the Oct.1 launch and locked out many people for days. Andy Slavitt, representing QSSI’s parent company, countered that it was not the only one responsible for the registration system, which is now working. He blamed CMS, saying that a late decision to require consumers to create accounts before they could browse health plans contributed to the overload.

“This may have driven higher simultaneous usage of the registration system that wouldn’t have occurred if consumers could window-shop anonymously,” he said.

He said the change was made within 10 days of the rollout, and his company suggested more testing would be needed.

“All of the concerns that we had, which were mostly related to testing and the inability to get as much testing as we would’ve liked, we expressed to CMS throughout the project,” he said.

But Slavitt did not elaborate on what those concerns were.

Republicans have suggested the late switch requiring users to sign in was initiated by the White House to prevent browsers from experiencing “sticker shock” over the costs of the insurance policies. In a letter, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) accused the White House of injecting politics into decisions about the website. The GOP letter cites testimony from top officials at CGI.

“Did the White House ever order your company for political reasons to mask sticker shock of Obamacare by disabling this anonymous shopper function?” asked Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), referring to Issa’s letter.

“I don’t believe that members of CGI actually made those statements directly in that manner. I think they may have been taken out of context,” Campbell responded.

“And to my knowledge, no, the White House has not given us direct instructions,” she added.

When Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) asked the contractors whether there were concerns the site was not ready to go live, Campbell said: “It was not our position to tell our client whether they should go live or not go live.”

“This is more than a website problem. And frankly, the website should have been the easy part,” Upton said. “This is a troubling fact, but we still don’t know the real picture, as the administration appears allergic to transparency.”

Republican committee members said the website problems are part of deeper flaws in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and they accused the Obama administration of misleading Congress with repeated assurances that the rollout was on track.

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Top Rated Comments   
Every meeting in congress has become a skirmish between the warring factions: the big government collectivists and central planners versus the limited government, free market, fiscal responsibility types. No meeting will ever be held that doesn't end up with these two groups shouting at each other, the left with their insipid and dishonest slogans and talking points, impugning the motives of anyone who questions them versus the right trying to defend itself while performing some reasonable congressional oversight.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
>>>GOP Rep. Murphy: Admin either "shockingly unaware of what was happening...or deliberately misleading our committee and the public."<<<

The two are not mutually exclusive, and indeed are probably synergistic. The question is, what is Congress going to do about it?

The Democrat referring to the Committee as a "monkey court" may well be a deliberate part of the ongoing Democrat effort to de-legitimize Congressional oversight.

Subotai Bahadur
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (8)
All Comments   (8)
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the subcontractors probably have a whole ream of issues to prove their point about needing more time to test. They'll have emails asking for more time. I bet the subcontractors are more capable of CYA then the admin is...
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You know, when I woke up this morning and I'm shaving, and Malia knocks on my bathroom door and she peeks in her head and she says, 'did you plug the code hole yet, Daddy?

Gotta love those Obama kids.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
In the world of Programming there are three factors;
1) Resources – That’s Money
2) Duration – That’s Time
3) Direction – That's what you are doing.
.
It is an ironclad rule that only two of these factors can ever be known.
If you know what you are doing and how long it will take; you have no idea what it will cost
If you know how much it will cost and what you are doing; you have no idea how long it will take
If you know how much it will cost and how long it will take; you have no idea what you are doing.
If you know all three factors for any reason; you are living in Fantasyland.
.
However, if you only know how long it will take, but you don’t know what you are doing or how much it will cost; then you are working on a Government Project.
…A sign in an MIT computer lab in the early 80′s.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Every meeting in congress has become a skirmish between the warring factions: the big government collectivists and central planners versus the limited government, free market, fiscal responsibility types. No meeting will ever be held that doesn't end up with these two groups shouting at each other, the left with their insipid and dishonest slogans and talking points, impugning the motives of anyone who questions them versus the right trying to defend itself while performing some reasonable congressional oversight.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment

This is systemic failure, which is not surprising considering the current mindset in Business, Politics and academia ; say YES and then try to figure out how to accomplish the request.

It is lack of responsibility regardless if Political goal, Business project, financial goal, or deadline, people have been accustomed to accepting the task without regard to what is actually involved and how it will be accomplished.

This applies to ACA, Iraqi invasion, Afghanistan, the debt ceiling, the banking crisis, pretty much all major events. This seems to be prevalent in America more than other countries, since failure in rest of the world results in immediate dismissal at best, imprisonment or execution at worst.
In America, failure at higher levels of business and Government result in a promotion or " early retirement to spend time with Family"

When people learn to Say NO, throw cold water on the faces of the project, force leadership to stop, measure what is possible and timeline to accomplish it in, then America will get back on track.
Unfortunately i think it will take at least a generation of new leadership to fix this broken vessel.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Unfortunately i think it will take at least a generation of new leadership to fix this broken vessel. "

Yes, and you can blame, in part, the whole stupid B-School fad, which earns its living by turning out thousands upon thousands of idiots, expert in crunching numbers, fattened on silly slogans, and completely devoid of the wisdom that can only come from experience.

And we anointed these clueless wonders as the Saviours Of The Corporation, and we made legions of them Vice Presidents and Directors while still wet behind the ears.

The results should not be surprising.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
>>>GOP Rep. Murphy: Admin either "shockingly unaware of what was happening...or deliberately misleading our committee and the public."<<<

The two are not mutually exclusive, and indeed are probably synergistic. The question is, what is Congress going to do about it?

The Democrat referring to the Committee as a "monkey court" may well be a deliberate part of the ongoing Democrat effort to de-legitimize Congressional oversight.

Subotai Bahadur
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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