Private consulting firm warned of glitches before healthcare.gov launch
November 19th, 2013
12:27 AM ET
10 months ago

Private consulting firm warned of glitches before healthcare.gov launch

(CNN) - A newly disclosed report indicates that officials in the Obama administration and the Department of Health and Human Services received warnings from a private consultant group that the federal online healthcare enrollment site could potentially fail to function properly for the October 1 launch date.

The analysis by McKinsey & Company was requested by the White House. It identified various problems with the exchange, including limited testing time and resources before the launch, and found that call-in centers wouldn't function properly if the website malfunctioned.

The Obama administration has come under fire for the botched October 1 launch of healthcare.gov. The site has been plagued with technical issues barring many enrollees from signing up for the federal exchange though the site. This report suggests problems were brought to the attention of key officials as early as March.

The administration has said the President didn't know of problems with the Affordable Care Act's website until after its fumbled rollout - even though insurance companies had been complaining and the site crashed during a pre-launch test run.

CNN received the report from the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The committee said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius received a briefing at the HHS headquarters with these concerns on April 4, along with acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Marilyn Tavenner and White House chief technology officer Todd Park. Park was also present at a briefing on March 28 at the CMS headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland.

“Despite assurances from Secretary Sebelius, Marilyn Tavenner, and 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 what they told us,” said Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chairman Tim Murphy (R-Pennsylvania).

On Tuesday, a House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee holds a hearing on the security of the federal healthcare website.

McKinsey's report says the group reviewed 200 documents and sources, interviewed about 40 people across a variety of federal agencies and participated in some meetings and work sessions. But the analysis did not include outside interviews with insurers or access computer code or programs.

The report also points to potential areas of risk that never became a significant issue - like the data hubs used by the state sites and the federal site, to verify applicants' income, citizenship and eligibility. Or prolonged call times, which have been brought down in the weeks following the launch.

The story was first reported by the Washington Post.

CNN Senior Congressional Producer Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.


Filed under: Healthcare • HHS • Kathleen Sebelius • Obama administration
soundoff (539 Responses)
  1. BrewCrew0610

    Could have delayed it, but that would forced him to work with republicans so instead opted to shut down the government.. incompetence or arrogance, you pick

    November 19, 2013 01:05 am at 1:05 am |
  2. szinda

    I used to be such a big Obama supporter, but my faith in him has completely wavered. I believe he is brilliant at coming up with policies, but absolutely terrible at implementing them. He has too many "abstract" idea people in his cabinet and not enough politicians with practical experience to implement something as big as health care reform. It is truly disappointing to see how awfully the ACA roll out has been. I know in a couple of months, if the site works properly, this may be a nonissue, but it's still disappointing that they managed to screw this up as badly as they did. That being said, I still think we are far better off than we would have been with McCain or Romney. McCain would have us in wars all over the globe, and Romney would just tilt the playing field even more in favor of the privileged. I

    November 19, 2013 02:23 am at 2:23 am |
  3. Too much Power

    We don't want MCKinsey & Company evaluating our system. They're a front org for globalists. No thanks. i could have told you it will fail for free.

    November 19, 2013 02:26 am at 2:26 am |
  4. Allinstride

    No way! They knew? Say it isn't so!

    November 19, 2013 02:28 am at 2:28 am |
  5. Krokrokoto

    I am very sure the website glitch was the deal that was signed to reopen the government from shut down. . Obama agreed to let there be a glitch so the house dominated republicans will have their way. You can blame Obama all you want, but truth is its the fault of the voters who got a house majority of republicans. SAD

    November 19, 2013 02:30 am at 2:30 am |
  6. Lost

    Website experience glitches. Fix it and move on! We are tired of this back and forth fighting over the ACA. Republicans ought to be ashamed of themselves, and gloating as though this were a scandal. The Democrats need to step up, and be more aggressive and vocal about damage control. The president has made so many wonderful accomplishments, but people still want to hold him to impossible standards. We who support him must show him that he is not alone.
    Medicare was deemed 'socialized medicine' in it's pre-launch days, and faced backlash from social conservatives, but nothing as scathing and abusive as with the ACA launch.

    November 19, 2013 02:30 am at 2:30 am |
  7. Jetranger

    OBAMACARE – the Biggest Fraud since Iran Contra & Watergate !!!

    November 19, 2013 02:31 am at 2:31 am |
  8. Jonathon Powelly

    Where was the media when these reports were produced? It was probably a boiler plate report which by swapping out the client's name could be applied to a number of projects.

    November 19, 2013 02:36 am at 2:36 am |
  9. Too much Power

    Anyone in health care that has lived long enough to get past the idealistic stage (health care is a business) would have been able to tell you that this will fail. Where did they even find these people? They come across as being complete disconnects. And yet...that happens in health care too. so why be shocked.

    November 19, 2013 02:39 am at 2:39 am |
  10. WP4E

    Any major SW, will have issues; they are remedied by patches and service packs. Then versions are created which are created of patches and service packs plus additional functionality. This is normal SW development cycle; ask any SW professionals. Release 1 will almost always have glitches, especially Application at this scale and magnitude.

    November 19, 2013 02:41 am at 2:41 am |
  11. Mike

    What do you know? Obama lies again. What a shock.

    November 19, 2013 02:42 am at 2:42 am |
  12. I told you so

    typical government

    November 19, 2013 02:47 am at 2:47 am |
  13. bspurloc

    So last spring the coders knew of some Issues. so Months later would should ASSUME nothing was done to fix those issues, cuz that isnt how programming works. U note possible problems then go watch cartoons...

    November 19, 2013 02:50 am at 2:50 am |
  14. Sick of it

    So, we paid a ton of cash to some incompetent Canadians who were kicked out of participating in their governments healthcare website. Then we paid a smaller obscene amount to McKinsey & Company and then ignored the report we paid them to give us.

    The real problem with government is that we can't fire someone for doing a crappy job. The appointed people are all figure heads that can be shuffled around but the day to day employees are there for life. These are the people who make the real decisions that make or break a government project. The fact that Obama "knew" about the problems is not surprising. He's damn lucky this isn't UK, because a vote of no-confidence would have been called a long time ago.

    November 19, 2013 02:52 am at 2:52 am |
  15. Robert N. constant

    Once again, CNN is rehashing old news to be in line with the Republican Party's "talking points." Instead of finding something that is really news. For example. The Oil King Koch Brothers have recently donated millions to destroy America's alternate energy plan. They started in Arizona where solar energy is now taking fire.
    The Republicans would keep us on climate changing fossil fuels to make more billions. There is a news story there that CNN should have written and did not. Instead they keep recycling this cr*p.

    November 19, 2013 03:00 am at 3:00 am |
  16. bigbog

    What they lied?! They've only just begun.

    November 19, 2013 03:10 am at 3:10 am |
  17. mike Lake Orion Michigan

    Obama needs to come clean! One lie after another.

    November 19, 2013 03:14 am at 3:14 am |
  18. Name

    Anyone who believes he knows nothing is a fool trying to keep their head in the sand – wake up people ! He works for them under the guise of giving a crap about us reg people- he is still a rich politician

    November 19, 2013 03:19 am at 3:19 am |
  19. nomad2003

    What a bunch of deceptions.... Mr. Obama did not know! He knew and deceived us. If not told it was his fault for putting the wrong people in charge. Or he could have read about it in IBD on Sept 25th.

    The public has been deceived about ACA and everything else involving running a governemt. His DOJ was asrguing in court last month and told the judge, that group health plans would also fail the grandfather clause.
    And even the dem congress knew as admitted by a dem congresswoman.
    Enzi, a repub, triied to pass a bill in 2010 to fix grandfather clause, yet not dem voted for it,

    Say anything, do anything, to get elected and bills passed. The ends justifies the means.

    throw all the dems out and get new ones in 2014 hopefully ones that want term limits in congress

    November 19, 2013 03:20 am at 3:20 am |
  20. RobertM

    What a surprise! Oh wait, no it's not.

    November 19, 2013 03:21 am at 3:21 am |
  21. Federico Escobedo

    Oh, what a shock, completely surprised!!

    November 19, 2013 03:25 am at 3:25 am |
  22. Richard from Tyrone, Pennsylvania

    Obama lied again, what's new?

    November 19, 2013 03:28 am at 3:28 am |
  23. mikeymo74

    So what? There are going to potential concerns with any project. There's nothing unusual about this report. What can they do with a warning? All they can do is put pressure on the company to get it done in time, but I'm sure the company was assuring them they'd get it done on time.

    November 19, 2013 03:29 am at 3:29 am |
  24. DaMenace1

    Even though President Obama did not need to be involved in the process of constructing the ACA website, he was responsible to hold frequent meetings to receive progress reports.
    He should have requested that IT specialists perform tests of the site during those meetings for him to confirm that it was on schedule and working properly.

    November 19, 2013 03:31 am at 3:31 am |
  25. SixDegrees

    Most.

    Transparent.

    Administration.

    Ever.

    November 19, 2013 03:32 am at 3:32 am |
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