Warnings on Obamacare Website Overlooked, Republican Report Says

Jun 19, 2014 1:35 am ET

June 19 (Bloomberg) -- A contractor the Obama administration hired to monitor progress on its health insurance website, healthcare.gov, repeatedly warned the project was falling behind before the site failed in October, Senate Republicans said in a report.

The contractor, TurningPoint Global Solutions, “raised a litany of red flags” about the project in audits for the government beginning about a year before the website opened Oct. 1, according to the report by two Republican senators, Orrin Hatch of Utah and Charles Grassley of Iowa. A month before the site went live, the contractor said that of 355,000 lines of code, 21,000 had defects.

Many of the failures of healthcare.gov, the federal insurance marketplace that served 34 states in the first year of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, have been previously documented. Programming and hardware errors prevented the site from working for most Americans until December, and the former Health and Human Services secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, publicly acknowledged the project was a "debacle.’’ She resigned April 10.

The failures “proved to be indicative of many of Obamacare’s problems,” Hatch said in a statement. “In the end, the problem with Obamacare is not just the failed rollout of HealthCare.gov, but in the failed policies of the law that restrict patient choice and expand the powers of a bloated federal government.”

The report by the Republicans, who have opposed the law, rehashes many missteps in the site’s development that were already known, while shedding additional light on some, such as a lack of testing. People familiar with the project have said the site never underwent end-to-end testing before its launch.

23 Percent

TurningPoint, which served as the project’s “independent verification and validation” contractor, reported that just 23 percent of the site’s code had been tested before it went live, according to Hatch and Grassley.

TurningPoint’s role in the project and its reports haven’t previously been disclosed, Aaron Fobes, a spokesman for Hatch, said in an e-mail. Officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which built the site, wouldn’t say whether top executives in charge of the project saw TurningPoint’s audits and “implied the reports were not useful or up to date,” according to Hatch and Grassley’s report.

“It’s well known that we faced challenges during the launch of healthcare.gov,” Aaron Albright, a spokesman for CMS, said in an e-mail. “As it has been widely reported, we didn’t anticipate the levels of difficulty that we ultimately faced. We immediately worked to fix the issues and developed new management processes.”

About 8 million Americans ultimately signed up for private plans under the Affordable Care Act, including 5.4 million who used the federal enrollment system. Albright said the Medicare agency is “making additional improvements to technology and management structures so that millions more Americans can sign up for quality, affordable coverage.”

Enrollment for 2015 health plans opens on November 15, and at least 13 million people are expected to sign up, according to the Congressional Budget Office.