Consultant Warned of Obamacare Website Woes Months Before Launch

Tuesday, 19 Nov 2013 04:54 AM

By Elliot Jager

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A private consultancy firm hired to anticipate problems with the healthcare.gov website told top Obama administration officials — in four briefings starting March 28 and ending April 8 — to run a "1.0 test version" of the site before rolling out the project for public use.

It also made plain that the lack of a single authoritative decision maker was hampering the orderly implementation of the project, according to The Washington Post.

The report by McKinsey & Co. warned of many of the glitches that have come to plague the site. It said there would be problems with the call-in centers if the online system was faulty and cautioned that inadequate testing would complicate efforts to repair problems that would be encountered after the Oct. 1 launch.

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Marilyn Tavenner, and White House technology czar Todd Park all participated in the April 4 meeting at HHS headquarters. Mark Childress, then deputy White House chief of staff, was briefed on April 8.

They were told that the federal marketplace's design was undercut by "evolving requirements," lack of large-scale testing and revision, and the absence of a single decision maker who had an "end-to-end operational view" of the system — someone to guarantee that its diverse elements worked well together.

No one person was empowered to make changes or set criteria for success, the Post reported.
 
McKinsey staffers reviewed documents and interviewed federal employees. They did not review the computer code, provide technical assessments, or speak with insurers. And McKinsey did not explicitly forecast that the project's flawed design stage would impede its rollout, the Post reported.

Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, said it would appear that administration officials knew the system was more troubled than they let on.

"Despite assurances from Secretary Sebelius, Marilyn Tavenner and [Medicare & Medicaid Services official] Gary Cohen that all was well and on track with the launch of the Affordable Care Act, we now have documents dating back to April that call into question the assertions made to this committee," Murphy said, according to the Post.

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