Government contractors responsible for designing the health care reform website faced bipartisan scorn from members of Congress Thursday morning, at the start of a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
In opening statements, Republicans said the bungled rollout of healthcare.gov showed the Affordable Care Act is flawed and should be delayed or rolled back. Democrats demanded a quick fix.
“This is taxpayer money on the line,” said Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee. “The past three weeks of exchange messiness have demonstrated that nobody can be a blind cheerleader for the Affordable Care Act.” The exchange web site launched on Oct. 1 and quickly became hobbled by error messages and bottlenecks, rendering it largely unusable. Those familiar with the process of developing the web site say it was not properly tested, lacked the capacity to handle heavy traffic and contains bad computer code that’s currently sending garbled and duplicate enrollee information to health insurers.
Several of the contractors represented at Thursday’s hearing played central roles in developing the web site, which was ultimately overseen by bureaucrats at HHS’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). In prepared statements released Wednesday, contractors sought to deflect blame for the web site troubles, pointing to each other and the federal government.
When representatives from the same contractors appeared before Congress in September, they assured House members that the web site was on track and ready for launch. “They said there was nothing wrong and they expressed nothing but optimism,” said Democatic committee member Rep. Diana DeGette. “Three weeks later, here we are. We’re still hearing reports of significant problems.”
“For the Affordable Care Act to work, these problems need to be fixed and these problems need to be fixed fast,” she added.