On the defensive, the Obama administration acknowledged Wednesday its problem-plagued health insurance website didn't get enough testing before going live. It said technicians were deep into the job of fixing major computer snags but provided no timetable.
Democratic unhappiness with the situation began growing louder - including one call for President
Republican sniping about the website's flaws continued unabated, with House Speaker
Obama himself, though strongly defending the health care overhaul, has been increasingly willing to acknowledge extensive problems with the sign-up through online markets. Amid all that, the Health and
The first of several hearings is set for Thursday in the Republican-led House, with lawmakers ready to pounce on the contractors who built the balky online enrollment system.
Acknowledging what's been obvious to many outside experts, the administration said Wednesday that the system didn't get enough testing, especially at a high user volume. It blamed a compressed time frame for meeting the
For example, technical problems have surfaced that are making it hard for people to complete the application and plan-shopping functions. That's a big concern because those stages are further along in the signup process than the initial registration, where many consumers have been getting tripped up. The problems are being analyzed and fixes are planned, the department said.
The explanation, posted online in a department blog and accompanying graphic, identified other broad areas of problems and outlined fixes underway but in most cases incomplete:
- Unexpectedly high consumer interest that overwhelmed the system in its initial days. Equipment has been added to handle the load and system design has been improved. More fixes are in progress.
- Lack of a way for consumers to browse their health plan options without first having to set up a user account. A partial fix is in place.
- Incorrect or duplicate information in enrollments is being delivered to insurance companies. Some software fixes that should help address the issue have been completed, others are underway.
- Difficulties for consumers trying to create user accounts, including drop-down menus that didn't work. Design changes and software fixes should address the situation.
The new markets are supposed to be the portal to coverage for people who don't get health insurance on the job. Middle-class people are to pick from subsidized private insurance plans, while low-income people are steered to
The federal government is running the online markets in 36 states, and its website has had more than its share of problems. As a result, even Obama has urged consumers to revert to low-tech approaches, by applying through the mail, telephoning federal call centers, or seeking in-person assistance.
On Thursday, the
"Who made that decision? When was it made? Why was it made?" said Pitts.
In prepared testimony, an executive of QSSI's parent company said the decision was made late in the game. It could have contributed to overloading the system, said the executive,
CGI vice president
Meanwhile, Democrats are worrying aloud about persistent problems with the rollout. Rep.
"The president needs to man up, find out who was responsible, and fire them," Nolan said. He did not name anyone.
Likewise in the
Obama says he's as frustrated as anyone and has promised a "tech surge" to fix the balky website.
In light of the computer problems, some Democrats are saying Obama should consider extending open enrollment season beyond next
House Democratic Leader
"I think we should try to fix what we have, move forward with the deadline we have," the
Even if the computer problems get ironed out, the Republicans are unlikely to end their criticism. Said Boehner on Wednesday: "When you look at the problems with Obamacare, all the focus here lately has been on the website. ... I would argue the problems go much further than that."
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