KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Capitol Hill Testimony: Testing Started Too Late, Was Limited

During Thursday's House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing, contractors who work on healthcare.gov told the panel that "end-to-end" testing that should have been done months before the online insurance marketplace's launch actually began just weeks in advance. In addition, a last-minute administration decision to require users to sign in before shopping for insurance caused the system to bottleneck.

The Washington Post: Full Testing Of Healthcare.gov Began Too Late, Contractors Say
Private contractors in charge of building the federal online health insurance marketplace testified Thursday that the administration went ahead with the Oct. 1 launch of HealthCare.gov despite insufficient testing. In their first public remarks since the debut of the problem-ridden insurance exchange, executives of the main IT companies told members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee that full tests of the Web site that should have been carried out months in advance, but began just two weeks before its rollout (Somashekhar and Goldstein, 10/24).

The New York Times: Contractors Describe Limited Testing of Insurance Web Site
Federal officials did not fully test the online health insurance marketplace until two weeks before it opened to the public on Oct. 1, contractors told Congress on Thursday. While individual components of the system were tested earlier, they said, the government did not conduct "end-to-end-testing" of the system until late September (Pear, 10/24).

Los Angeles Times: Health Website Contractors Acknowledge Late Changes, Limited Tests
Developers of the troubled Obamacare website confirmed Thursday that a last-minute decision requiring users to sign up before shopping for insurance caused the system to bottleneck and acknowledged they did not conduct an "end to end" test until just before this month's botched rollout. The federal contractors sought to shift responsibility for the more than $400-million project to the Obama administration, providing fuel for Republicans who want to kill the Affordable Care Act (Mascaro and Hennessey, 10/24).

The Wall Street Journal: Botched Launch Of Health Site Blamed On Poor Coordination
No one in the government made sure the many complex parts of the federal health-insurance website worked together properly, and testing of the complete site didn't take place until two weeks before its Oct. 1 launch, contractors said at the first congressional hearings into the matter. The website's botched launch has become the biggest threat to the success of President Barack Obama's health law, just days after Democrats beat back a Republican bid to defund it. More Democrats said Thursday that penalties on those who lack health insurance—a linchpin of the law—should be delayed because of the difficulties many people have had in navigating the site (Schatz, 10/25).

Politico: Contractors Grilled On The Hill
Top Obamacare contractors said Thursday they never recommended that the Obama administration delay the Oct. 1 launch of HealthCare.gov — even though some of them harbored doubts about a website that would crash shortly after it went live. Republicans pressed four contractors appearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on why they had told Congress in September that Obamacare’s online enrollment system was on track, only to go off the rails in October (Haberkorn and Millman, 10/24).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Contractors: Obama Admin. Left Little Time For Testing Health Care Site And Made Late Changes
Who’s to blame? The first congressional hearing into what went wrong dug into issues of website architecture and testing protocols — but also re-stoked the partisan battle over President Barack Obama’s signature expansion of health coverage for millions of uninsured Americans. Republicans who’ve been trying to kill the program the past three years sounded outraged that it is being poorly carried out, while Democrats jeered them as political hypocrites (10/24).

Politico: Obamacare Website Hearing Takeaways: Missing Word Was 'Sorry'
So now we know the contractors’ side of the Obamacare website debacle: They did a great job, the bad decisions weren’t their fault, and they’re fixing it. Thursday’s standing-room-only hearing on the snakebit federal Obamacare enrollment website, HealthCare.gov, saw a parade of witnesses who weren’t about to take responsibility for the disaster. We just do what the client asks, they said — and in this case, the client was the Obama administration (Nather, 10/24).

Kaiser Health News: Health On The Hill: Lawmakers Challenge Healthcare.gov Contractors On Website Problems
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey and Politico Pro's Jennifer Haberkorn discuss recent events on Capitol Hill. For more than four hours in a hearing Thursday, House Energy and Commerce Committee members grilled contractors who helped build the health law's problem-plagued online insurance marketplace (10/24).

Reuters: Contractors Describe Scant Pre-Launch Testing Of U.S. Healthcare Site
The Obama administration launched its troubled healthcare insurance website after only a minimum of crucial system-wide testing, despite contractors warning officials repeatedly about performance risks, a congressional panel heard on Thursday (Morgan and Cornwell, 10/25).

PBS NewsHour: HealthCare.Gov Contractors Testify They Warned Of Glitch Risks Before Launch
The contractors behind the development of HealthCare.gov testified before a House committee that they warned officials the insurance exchange site was not properly tested before it went live. Meanwhile the White House announced that insurance seekers will now have until March 31 to sign up for coverage (Sreenivasan, 10/24).

McClatchy: Contractors Say Late Changes, Lack Of Testing Doomed Health Care Website Launch
Private contractors working on the troubled federal health insurance marketplace told a congressional committee Thursday that they needed several months, but only had two weeks, before the launch date to fully test what could be the most complex government IT system in U.S. history. The task was further complicated by the Obama administration’s late decision to require users to create personal accounts before they could browse and compare health plans on the marketplace portal, the Healthcare.gov website (Pugh, 10/24).

Fox News: Contractors Point Fingers Over ObamaCare Botch, Blame Gov't For Poor Testing
The finger-pointing was in full swing Thursday at a tense Capitol Hill hearing where the contractors behind the botched ObamaCare website defended their work and claimed the government failed to properly test the system before launch. ... Lawmakers cast doubt on attempts by contractors, who were paid millions, to claim they were not responsible for many of the site's problems. Top contractor CGI Federal revealed it was paid $290 million in taxpayer funds. But CGI Federal and other contractors repeatedly claimed that overall "end-to-end" testing was the responsibility of an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services, as was the decision to go live on Oct. 1 (10/24).

The Washington Post's Post Politics: Pallone: House Health-Care Hearing A 'Monkey Court'
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) derided today's House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing as a "monkey court," accusing Republicans of exhibiting false concern during testimony and chastising them for raising security concerns that he said were specious. “You are trying to scare people so they won’t apply,” he said, adding that he believes the Republicans’ true purpose is to undermine people’s trust in the new health-care law so that it has to be delayed or repealed. His outburst came after two Republicans alleged that the federal marketplace does not adequately protect people’s medical privacy (Somashekhar and Eilperin, 10/24).

Reuters: Official Who Made Big Healthcare Website Decision A Frequent White House Visitor
The government official identified as being responsible for a last-minute decision that helped jam up the Obamacare health insurance website has been a frequent presence at the White House, according to visitor logs. Henry Chao, deputy chief information officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), was named Thursday in congressional testimony as the one who ordered the lead contractor to make consumers register before browsing for price information, a step avoided by popular online shopping sites such as Amazon.com (Debenedetti and Cornwell, 10/24).

Medpage Today: Healthcare.gov Builders: Jan. 1 Coverage Doable
The contractors who built the federal government's online health insurance marketplace told Congress on Thursday that problems with the troubled website will be ironed out in time to allow uninsured people to enroll for coverage that starts Jan. 1. Furthermore, they believed the website was ready to go live on Oct. 1 -- despite the issues encountered later that day -- and didn't recommend delaying the launch ofHealthcare.gov, four contractors told the House Energy and Commerce Committee (Pittman, 10/24).

In related news -

Bloomberg: CGI Group Seen Rebounding From Obamacare Website Failure
CGI Group Inc. (GIB/A) Chief Executive Officer Michael Roach told investors at a conference two weeks before the debut of the Obamacare website that the contract marked the start of a “long-term relationship” and a “significant growth opportunity.” Instead, Canada’s biggest technology company is now a visible face for software snags on the U.S. government site for the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Tomesco, 10/25).

ProPublica: Healthcare.gov's Users Speak Out: 'Clean This Mess Up'
Over the weekend, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services began unveiling its effort to fix Healthcare.gov, the home for the federal insurance marketplace. Part of that was a blog post soliciting comments from folks who have tried the site (Ornstein, 10/24).

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