Online Marketplaces Lacked Adequate Testing, Tech Representatives Say

WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — Technical glitches with the website for the Obama administration’s new health insurance marketplace set off another partisan slugfest on Capitol Hill on Thursday.

As CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported, hearings on the government’s troubled Web portal had Democrats and Republicans replaying the debate over the health care overhual that led to the 16-day government shutdown earlier this month.

“Five hundred million dollars later, we find the American public have been dumped with the ultimate cash for clunkers,” said Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.).

“Here we go again, another cynical effort by the Republicans to delay, defund or ultimately repeal the Affordable Care Act,” said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.)

Four of the more than 50 contractors who worked on spoke to the House Energy and Commerce Committee about the glitches and found themsleves caught in a buzz saw. They testified that, while their individual parts of the site may have worked as planned, there was not enough testing.

“We didn’t see the full kind of integrated, end-to-end system testing that you’re talking about until a couple of days leading up to the launch,” Web contractor Andrew Slavitt, representing the firm QSSI, answered one lawmaker.

“We’re not excited nor are we pleased with what we delivered on October 1, but in principal it worked,” added CGI vice president Cheryl Campbell, another contractor.

The online insurance markets were meant to be the portal to coverage for people who don’t get health benefits on the job. Middle-class people are to pick from subsidized private insurance plans, while low-income people are steered to Medicaid in states that have agreed to expand that safety-net program. But the administration is now urging consumers to apply via call centers or on paper forms as the website problems are being addressed.

Republicans said the glitches support their contention that the health care law should be delayed. Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas) held up a tablet computer during the hearing with the website on it, saying, “I got this after 41 minutes: ‘Please log in again.'”

Democrats, meanwhile, said they, too, expected to work just like other well-traveled websites.

“Amazon and eBay don’t crash the week before Christmas,” said Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.)

The White House was still on the defensive Thursday.

“Do we wish that there had been a better and more effective website on October 1st? Absolutely,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters. “If you’re asking me, do we think it’s right and appropriate to ask Americans with pre-existing condition to wait longer for affordable health insurance, the answer’s no.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will face the committee next week.

The Obama administration has not provided a timetable for the issues to be resolved.

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