House Republicans will probe botched launch of Obamacare

 

McClatchy Washington Bureau

Republicans in the House of Representatives are making plans to investigate the disastrous Oct. 1 launch of the federal health insurance marketplace established under Obamacare.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee has asked Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and the federal contractors involved in the rollout to explain why things have gone so badly after their earlier testimony indicated that the marketplace information technology would run smoothly.

The federal marketplace, Healthcare.gov, was supposed to provide a one-stop site for users in 36 states to browse, compare and enroll in qualified health plans.

But millions of users and numerous software problems overwhelmed the site shortly after the enrollment period for 2014 coverage began. In subsequent days, the site was shut down temporarily for repairs, which have continued since the problems first surfaced.

Two weeks later, site navigation has improved but delays and malfunctions continue to dog the system, making it difficult for users to establish personal accounts and obtain federal subsidies to offset the cost of coverage.

Nearly 15 million people had visited the site as of last Friday, but the Department of Health and Human Services won’t release enrollment figures until November.

In a Sept. 10 subcommittee hearing, Cheryl Campbell, senior vice president at CGI Federal, which designed and developed the federal insurance marketplace, testified that her company was confident that qualified individuals “could begin enrolling in coverage when the initial enrollment period begins on October 1.”

Michael Finkel, an executive vice president of Quality Software Services Inc., the company that wrote the software code for the so-called data services hub, offered similar testimony at the hearing. The hub routes information from the marketplace to various federal databases.

“We expect the data services hub will be ready . . . as planned on October 1,” Finkel testified.

Equally positive testimony about the system’s readiness from Sebelius and other key health officials has now come under increased scrutiny by committee Republicans, who’ve long been skeptical of the glowing progress reports.

Several government reports had warned that testing for the marketplace was months behind schedule and the data hub might not get final approval until days before the launch.

“Despite the widespread belief that the administration was not ready for the health law’s October 1 launch, top officials and lead IT contractors looked us in the eye and assured us all systems were a go,” Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said in a recent press statement. “The American people deserve to know what caused this mess.”

The committee has asked Sebelius and top officials from CGI Federal and Quality Software Services to provide information about when the testing of the system was completed, the cause of the problems and any work being done to fix them.

The committee also wants all communications between HHS and both companies in the week leading up to Oct. 1 to see what, if any, problems or concerns may have been apparent before the launch.

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., has called for Sebelius to resign over the botched rollout. But on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Sebelius had President Barack Obama’s “full confidence.”

“The president is committed and has instructed his team to work 24/7 to resolve the issues that have arisen when it comes to implementation,” Carney said.

Email: tpugh@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @TonyPughDC

Read more Politics Wires stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. speaks at a GOP Freedom Summit, Saturday, April 12, 2014, in Manchester, N.H. Several potential Republican White House contenders _ among them Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Sen. Ted Cruz, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee _ headline a conference Saturday in New Hampshire, hosted by the conservative groups Citizens United and Americans for Prosperity.

    Rand Paul facing more intense criticism from right and left — which he says is 'a sign of success'

    After responding to an audience question about Medicare reform and calling for "tough love," Rand Paul laughed at the suggestion that he better "be ready to duck."Heeding a recent lesson from another potential 2016 presidential contender — former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — Paul gripped the sides of the podium and moved his head and shoulders from side to side. "You notice I'm pretty agile," Paul said to laughs. "I'm looking for shoes."

  •  
In this March 19, 2014 photo, Oregon Republican Senate candidate, Monica Wehby speaks at a candidate forum in Lake Oswego, Ore. Republicans are making a bold play for a U.S. Senate seat in Oregon, a reliably Democratic state that hasn't elected a Republican to a statewide office in more than a decade. Republicans think they've found the right candidate in Wehby, a children's brain surgeon who's raised more than $1 million and put her early opposition to the president's health law at the center of her campaign to help her party regain a Senate majority.

    GOP making bold play for US Senate seat in Oregon

    The GOP is making a bold play for a U.S. Senate seat in reliably Democratic Oregon, where a Republican hasn't been elected to a statewide office in more than a decade.

  • US weighing military exercises in Eastern Europe

    The United States is considering deploying about 150 soldiers for military exercises to begin in Poland and Estonia in the next few weeks, a Western official said Saturday. The exercises would follow Russia's buildup of forces near its border with Ukraine and its annexation last month of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category