Obama Administration Knew Of Obamacare Website Problems A Month Before Launch

Healthhcaredotgov

CNN is reporting that the Obama Administration was warned about problems with the website hosting the Federal Obamacare exchange a month before the site went live:

Washington (CNN) – The Obama administration was given stark warnings just one month before launch that the federal healthcare site was not ready to go live, according to a confidential report obtained by CNN.

The caution, from the main contractor CGI, warned of a number of open risks and issues for the HealthCare.gov web site even as company executives were testifying publicly that the project had achieved key milestones.

On Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Medicaid Chief Marilyn Tavenner, whose job it was to oversee the October 1 rollout of the website, said she did not foresee its problems.

“No, we had tested the website and we were comfortable with its performance,” she said. “Now, like I said, we knew all along there would be as with any new website, some individual glitches we would have to work out. But, the volume issue and the creation of account issues was not anticipated and obviously took us by surprise. And did not show up in testing.”

But the CGI document, which describes “top risks currently open” and “outstanding issues currently being mitigated” says the testing timeframes are “not adequate to complete full functional, system, and integration testing activities” and lists the impact of the problems as “significant.”

Another element is listed as ” not enough time in schedule to conduct adequate performance testing” and given the highest priority.

CGI had no comment other than to confirm authenticity of the report that also gave “the highest priority” and warns “we don’t have access to monitoring tools” and “hub services are intermittently unavailable” — short for the “site’s not working sometimes.”

One concern, listed as “severe,” warned, “CGI does not have access to necessary tools to manage envs in test, imp, and prod. Specifically (1) we don’t have access to central log collection / view (2) we don’t have access to monitoring tools. We have repeatedly asked CMS and URS but have not been granted this access.”

The report, which documents issues from August 2013 and was sent to at least one employee at CMS by an executive at CGI on September 6, was submitted in response to a request by the House Oversight Committee, which is now investigating the rollout of the health law.

Additionally, this morning Associated Press is reporting that the Administration was also warned about security risks:

An internal government memo obtained by The Associated Press shows administration officials were concerned that a lack of testing posed a “high” security risk for President Barack Obama’s new health insurance website.

The Sept. 27 memo to Medicare chief Marylin Tavenner said a website contractor wasn’t able to test all the security controls in one complete version of the system.

Insufficient testing “exposed a level of uncertainty that can be deemed as a high risk,” the memo said.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebilius is now appearing before a House Committee on these issues, but considering that the committee has decided that individual questions will be limited to four minutes, the prospect that anything of substance is going to be discovered is pretty much non-existent. Nonetheless, at a glance it appears that we’re looking at some fairly serious government contracting failures here, including failures in project by the Center for Medicare and Medicare Services, the HHS Agency responsible for running the Federal exchange. Considering that this is the same agency that will be administering the program once it’s up and running, that doesn’t exactly inspire a high degree of confidence.

Update: Shortly after this post was published, the Chair and Ranking Member of the Committee that Sebelius is appearing before agreed to limit question time to two minutes for each member so that each member present would be able to ask a question. Just one question mind you, and there’d barely be time for a response. This isn’t a serious oversight hearing.

Also, ironically, the Healthcare.gov, other than the front-end of the site,  has been down the entire time that Sebelius has been testifying.

FILED UNDER: Bureaucracy, Health Care, Quick Takes, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. rudderpedals says:

    The site’s back up. She must be through with testifying.

  2. grumpy realist says:

    My goodness. Hell, these idiots would have done better to put me in charge of the whole project. This is just one engineering SNAFU after another:

    “No, we had tested the website and we were comfortable with its performance,” she said. “Now, like I said, we knew all along there would be as with any new website, some individual glitches we would have to work out. But, the volume issue and the creation of account issues was not anticipated and obviously took us by surprise. And did not show up in testing.”

    If I had had a project manager under me who tried to give me that BS as an explanation for why a project didn’t work out, his ass would have been fired in the next second.

    As far as I can tell, the only reason these clowns got the contract was because they had all these links into different government organizations. Probably the idea was that because they had “knowledge” of all the internal house computer systems they would do better at creating a general interface socket.

    IDIOTS.

  3. Tony W says:

    I love how the Republicans are making as much hay as possible about a website front-end to a program they invented, but purport to HATE, not working well enough to handle the overwhelming demand coming from their Red State constituents. Mental gymnastics required.

    Solution: Elect Democrats who will set up a state exchange. You will then have a blissful California-like experience with low rates and a great-functioning website!

  4. David M says:

    @Tony W:

    Don’t forget the Medicaid Expansion and insurance rate oversight as well. There are several GOP states paying higher rates because they chose not to challenge rates the insurance companies set.

  5. Grewgills says:

    My understanding is that dozens of companies were given pieces of the contract because of federal contracting rules and that no company was given lead, so no company had access to all of the information, to make it possible to test. This seems to be supported by the fact that CMS and URS refused to give CGI relevant info to test the whole. Now that the shit has hit the fan, I am guessing that all info is on the table for the people working on the problem now, but I am prepared for disappointment.

  6. SKI says:

    This isn’t a serious oversight hearing.

    It is a House Committee. Of course there isn’t any serious oversight. That isn’t their intent. They just want the photo-op and the talking points.

  7. wr says:

    Not a serious hearing? But there was a very good reason to limit each Member to two minutes of questioning — the Republicans wanted to end the hearing so they could adjourn and go on vacation for another two weeks.

  8. grumpy realist says:

    @Grewgills: Plus I’m sure that when it came to coordinating development across all these groups, each group was quite willing to say “oh yes, indeed, I’m TOTALLY up to date and am absolutely sure that I’ll hit all the roadmarks in time” knowing full well that they were N months behind in development and that their chief programmer had just quit out of exasperation. The gamble is that one of the other groups will fail publicly in such a grandiose manner that any default on your part can be blamed on the other….

    (As you can tell, I’ve done that. Ended up coordinating the most ghastly Rube Goldberg mess of an international project between Japanese and US companies/agencies because *I* was the only one in the entire project that was bilingual, kid you not.)

  9. Hal 10000 says:

    I’m toying with a theory: the Republicans secretly love Obamacare and had that whole shutdown thing to distract attention away from the rollout problems. I mean, there had to be SOME reason for that whole fiasco, right?

  10. bill says:

    @Hal 10000: probably that not a single republican member of congress voted for it? it might have gone smoother if it was even somewhat bi-partisan instead of rammed down our throats. still, less than 40% of Americans approve of it, and i think that number will be dropping next poll.

    @Tony W: you should write comedy, that was really funny.

  11. David M says:

    @bill:

    Yes, it would have gone better if the GOP weren’t solely interested in opposing any and all health care reform. The Democratic Party can’t force the GOP to stop being destructive, only the voters can.

  12. Tyrell says:

    I went to the Obama Care official site yesterday and it said it was down, to try the toll free number. I call the number and it has a recorded message to go to the website. Wild. Everyone is reporting different things. My neighbor applied two weeks ago. Now he can’t access his account: apparently the application and personal information is lost.

  13. bill says:

    @Tyrell: i actually got through last week, it gave me a quote for 3x what i pay now plus a huge deductible. i didn’t stick around for the particulars.

  14. Jon Davies says:

    I don’t suppose it will make anyone feel any better but the UK government just wrote off $15 billion on a failed healthcare computer system.

    This is just confirming what I already thought. Governments and big IT projects don;t go well together. Maybe not surprisingly but the UK (HMRC) tax collection computer system is one of the better ones.

  15. Tyrell says:

    @bill: Sounds familiar. What will happen is that there will actually wind up being more uninsured people than ever. And the IRS can only get the “penalty” from a person’s tax refund.

  16. Just Me says:

    My issue is that HHS had almost 3 years to plan for and prepare. Why did the put it off for so long and why weren’t the running tests?

    And if the Federal rules for contracts are set up in a way that creating and testing a program of this size then they should re-evaluate them at least for large projects.

    I still don’t see this being fixed by the end of the year and perhaps those fixing it should see what was done right in states that didn’t seem to fail completely (I understand Kentucky’s site works well and a few others).

  17. wr says:

    @Tyrell: “I went to the Obama Care official site yesterday and it said it was down, to try the toll free number”

    Not that I doubt your sincerity, but I just typed “healthcare.gov” into my browser and the site popped up instantly. I went through a couple of screens at lightning speed — much faster than OTB loads, that’s for sure! — and then was redirected to the California site when I said that’s the state I was in. When I said I was in Florida on a second visit, I was immediately directed to set up an account.

    So maybe you should try again.

  18. wr says:

    @bill: “it might have gone smoother if it was even somewhat bi-partisan instead of rammed down our throats”

    Please show me in the Constitution where it says that the majority party needs the permission of the minority party to pass legislation.

  19. David M says:

    Several times people have complained about the new healthcare options, but never provided enough information for it to be useful.

    Do you get insurance through your work? Which state do you live in? How many people on the policy? Will you qualify for subsidies or Medicaid?

    Without that information, saying the options are too high or too expensive compared to what you have is pretty meaningless.

  20. Tyrell says:

    @wr: Thanks. I will try again.

  21. wr says:

    @Tyrell: I wish you luck and a good plan!

  22. the Q says:

    So OTB Is reporting CNN and AP stories about SNAFUs between CGI and CMS because URS and HHS are not AOK with the SOP to be used so the GOP is yelling WTF?

    Is that about right?

  23. bill says:

    @wr: it doesn’t, but if you want to accomplish things you should remember that you’ll need some help with it unless you have a super majority in both houses. that said, here we are…..

    @David M: they actually had some plans a few years ago, but nobody (read- democrats) was interested in them.
    from cbsnews-

    Given the large Democratic majority in the House, it will be difficult for Republicans to get their proposals into the bill that ultimately comes to the floor.

  24. wr says:

    @bill: “it doesn’t, but if you want to accomplish things you should remember that you’ll need some help with it unless you have a super majority in both houses. that said, here we are…..”

    Which is why this has happened in just about every other case in US history. Once the law is the law, both sides work together to implement it — even to improve it.

    In this case, Republicans have been trying to sabotage the law from day one. And they continue to. These people are interested in nothing but power for their party. If Americans get sick and die, as long as they can blame it on Obama they’re happy.

  25. Jim says:

    Yet so little talk about the Administration’s screw ups. Most of you liberals here a lemmings and o so willing to carry the water. GROW a pair.