Report: Contractor warned administration about Obamacare site problems

Sarah Hurtubise | Reporter

HealthCare.gov contractor CGI warned the Obama administration that the website might not be ready just one month before launch, CNN reported Tuesday night.

CNN obtained a memo from CGI, the main contractor that built HealthCare.gov, informing administration officials that the site wasn’t finished and wouldn’t be by Oct. 1, but Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) officials claimed again just Monday that they had no knowledge of the problems.

A whole slew of problems were named in the Sept. 6 memo sent to CMS officials, including that “hub services are intermittently unavailable” –a key indicator that the site could face outages.

Testing timeframes were “not adequate to complete full functional, system, and integration testing activities,” according to the document, and the problems would have “significant” impact on the site, according to CNN.

For the highest priority element the report describes, there was “not enough time in schedule to conduct adequate performance testing.”

And the problems were just a matter of time. For a “severe” and “high priority” problem, CGI warned that the company “does not have access to necessary tools to manage envs [environments] in test, imp,  and prod,” three stages of site development where the page is tested, improved and produced.  

“Specifically (1) we don’t have access to central log collection / view (2) we don’t have access to monitoring tools,” the documents reads. “We have repeatedly asked CMS and URS but have not been granted this access.”

CMS head Marilyn Tavenner testified to the House Ways and Means Committee on Monday that her department was not aware of the problems, but the memo from the contractor suggests otherwise.

“We had tested the website and we were comfortable with its performance,” Tavenner told Congress on Monday. “The volume issues and the creation of account issues was not anticipated and obviously took us by surprise. And did not show up in testing.”

The report details problems with the developing website dating to August 2013, when Tavenner told Congress that “CMS is ready for Oct. 1.”

CMS spokesman Brian Cook brushed the report aside, saying the document was “not a dire warning,” but a “list of things to do.”

The CGI update was simply a list of “what’s been done, what needs to be done, what needs to be resolved,” Cook told CNN. “It is misleading to cherry pick a few lines. … we worked to address those issues and all issues identified.”

The documents may indicate that administration officials were aware of HealthCare.gov’s extensive problems before the launch despite CMS statements to the contrary — a problem which may be forming somewhat of a pattern.

This report comes on the heels of revelations that the administration was aware that Obamacare regulations would result in anywhere from 7 to 12 million Americans losing their health care plans, despite President Barack Obama’s oft-repeated line that “if you like your plan, you can keep it.”

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