Washington, DC, United States (4E) – Contractors of the Obamacare online enrollment website were on the hot seat at a House panel hearing on Thursday as lawmakers sought answers to the HealthCare.gov’s launching fiasco.
Executives of the CGI Federal and Quality Software Services, Inc. (QSSI), two of four developers of the website, told the House Energy and Commerce Committee the portal, where residents of 36 states can sign up for private insurance under the Affordable Care Act, was not adequately tested before its rollout on Oct. 1.
Millions of uninsured people had trouble registering and choosing coverage at the online health insurance marketplace. Many users could not enroll or encountered errors. The website is currently semifunctional as the White House invited IT experts to fix the glitches.
At the start of the hearing, committee chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) chastised the contractors for assuring the panel in mid-September hearing that the website was fine and ready to go. Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) saw a lame excuse by the contractors as she cited that many websites with far bigger traffic, including Amazon and eBay, don’t crash during peak usage.
CGI Vice President Cheryl Campbell said told the panel that end-to-end testing of HealthCare.gov occurred only in the last two weeks of September.
Andrew Slavitt, an executive vice president of QSSI owner Optum, said the integrated testing did not occur “until the last few days” before the launch. He said that test should have been done months in advance.
Campbell and Slavitt admitted systems crash, failures and risk during the testing but did not recommend to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to delay the launch. Campbell said the decision to go live was up to the CMS.
Campbell said the system is technically working and assured it will get better going forward to allow customers to beat the deadline for Obamacare enrollment by Feb. 15. All Americans are required to have insurance coverage under the Obamacare by March 31 to avoid paying a fine.
“People are enrolling, but people will be able to enroll at a faster pace. Their experience will improve,” said Campbell, according to The Hill.
Meanwhile, the panel learned that the price of the CGI contract was actually higher than what the Government Accountability Office reported in June. Campbell said the CGI contract amounted to $290 million and the company has received $112 million to date. Slavitt said QSSI received $85 million so far.