Private consulting firm warned of glitches before healthcare.gov launch
November 19th, 2013
12:27 AM ET
9 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. George Winston III

    The Obama legacy is shaping up as the worst president of all times. He has already surpassed Jimmy Carter. He lacks the most basic of leadership skills and is the single most divisive president ever.

    November 19, 2013 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  2. You Can Keep Your Plan If You Want

    The former CEO of Aetna Insurance was on CNBC yesterday. He said when the insurance plan in Massachusetts was rolled out it was done in five phases over a 20 year period. The federal government is trying to do all of this in one day. This leads me to believe that the ACA is a gargantuan task that may not be achievable. I believe Obamacare will eventually be scrapped and replaced with a more limited program.

    P.S. – Before you start disparaging this guy, the former CEO of Aetna is an African-American.

    November 19, 2013 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  3. A True Conservative

    Do you mean to tell me that someone trid to warn peole in the government that this would happen and they didn't listen? I don't believe it!! Now with Bush, I would believe it.....but not with Obama! These are all lies from the right!! LOL......

    November 19, 2013 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  4. MICK

    Obama is a liar. His staff are liars. The house of cards is crumbling.

    November 19, 2013 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  5. Anne - Florida

    So every day we have to read/listen to the diatribe about ACA. Are there no other news stories? On one hand I am disappointed in Obama that this rollout went so bad BUT let's get real here. We are talking about a complete web site to get people signed up for healthcare. I wish the media would just cool off and let the people working on this do their job. I would like to know when healthcare was an easy topic!!!

    November 19, 2013 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  6. A True Conservative

    "Now Fix them. Enough of it. It can be fixed. Use the best programmers." – Gurgyl

    You crack me up!! The ship has sailed baby! The captain can blame the iceberg as much as he wants....he was in command of the ship....or didn't he know that?

    November 19, 2013 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  7. Reggie

    You can keep your plan if you wanted ...er...if we wanted you to...(read: IF WE ALLOW YOU, little man!)

    November 19, 2013 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  8. IUGirl86

    Malory Archer,
    Bush's failed policies don't give Obama a free pass. Why don't you stop by your library for a few Econ and Government books and study hard.

    November 19, 2013 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  9. Carl

    So Liberals – how's the hope and change (aka hype and lie) going?

    November 19, 2013 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  10. Bill

    I find it interesting that a hour ago this story was the headline on the web-site, but now it is in small font and pushed to the side. Did someone get a call?

    November 19, 2013 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  11. Fair is Fair

    Clearly this is Bush's fault.

    November 19, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  12. Maria Delaluz

    I need to learn more about this, but there is some kind of a $63.00 fee that under Obamacare all taxpayers must pay. I hear there's something in the works to exempt unions from this fee. Hmmm, for some reason I was under the impression that we were all equal under the law????

    November 19, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  13. rick

    Well at least when the Obama administration is warned about something no one dies.

    November 19, 2013 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  14. Data Driven

    @Anne, Florida,
    "So every day we have to read/listen to the diatribe about ACA. Are there no other news stories? On one hand I am disappointed in Obama that this rollout went so bad BUT let's get real here. We are talking about a complete web site to get people signed up for healthcare. I wish the media would just cool off and let the people working on this do their job. I would like to know when healthcare was an easy topic!!!"

    The media's been after Obama for years. It's a statistical fact that stories about the Administration have been more negative than positive, contra the Disqus-trolls here.

    A scandal-starved media tried last summer to bring down the Administration with faux-scandals that went nowhere. Now they got an example of the usual bureaucratic failures and they're now in full feeding-frenzy mode. The negative coverage has been completely disproportionate to the story itself. Compare, for instance, the kid-gloves treatment of the Bush Administration's sanctioning of torture.

    I suppose the only answer is that the corporate media supports torture and hates cheaper health insurance.

    November 19, 2013 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  15. Malory Archer

    IUGirl86

    Malory Archer,
    Bush's failed policies don't give Obama a free pass. Why don't you stop by your library for a few Econ and Government books and study hard.

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    I never said they did so please put your little straw man away. Att least nobody is dying in the desert of a foreign nation, drowning in their flooded attics after they were unable to hack their way through the roof of their houses – or losing their houses to foreclosure due to a faulty website. Can you say equivalency fail? That being said, perhaps the previous occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue should have taken your advice and stopped by his library for a few Econ and Government books and studied hard before given the chance to wreck the economy

    November 19, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  16. PALibertarian

    What's this about a group of Ivy League-educated politicians and wonks thinking they know better about the health care needs of us ordinary folk? Maybe this should be a teaching lesson to these "do-gooders" that their condescending beliefs in the prudence of the ordinary American is just as dangerous – if not more dangerous – to the common man than any so-called "exploitation" by the free market.

    November 19, 2013 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  17. tony

    Single payer charges on all people, including whole families with just the one income.:

    $0 under $1000/mo, 12% pro rata on next $4000/mo. 2% on income over $5000/mo. No co-pays or other charges.

    Full, timely medical cover, (far higher longevity, survival, genral health and satisfaction rate than the US) on everything except for cosmetic surgery. Elective procedures have lower time priority. Private Insuarance (extra) availalke for de-luxe private hospital stays, private specialist/celebrity doctors, etc.

    No completely unecessary parasitic "middle-men" medical insurance companies to add their obscene profits to every transaction.

    Having lots of experience of both sides, I don't know anyone on the single payer system who would swap to the US (Reagan-nocare) "system"

    November 19, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  18. Tony

    It is one and a half month into the start of Obamacare. The website is not the program. You don't need to use the website to comply with the law (Obamacare). You still get insurance from insurance companies, which are still out there. If we pass judgment after one and half month, we should have impeached Bush after one and a half month of the Iraq War and Medicare Part D.

    No, we don't blame Bush for Obamacare, because he did nothing, unlike his father and Romney. His father, George H.W. Bush, endorsed the individual mandate, along with other Republicans leaders at the time. Romney enacted Romneycare with the individual mandate in 2006, and touted Romneycare as a model for the nation in 2009. No, we don't blame Bush when he did nothing. We blame Bush for the other things that he did, including the Iraq War and Medicare Part D.

    November 19, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  19. Malory Archer

    Maria Delaluz

    I need to learn more about this, but there is some kind of a $63.00 fee that under Obamacare all taxpayers must pay.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Yeah, you really do need to "learn more" so you don't embarrass yourself by posting lies that have been debunked countless times already.

    November 19, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  20. Norm

    Obama knew plans would be cancelled (in fact he counted on it since that's how ACA is financed), he knew the website would not be ready, and he knew premiums would go up. But he also knows that while delivering new benefits will be hard, taking them away will be impossible. That's why the libs are working in "D-Day" mode. Just get a beachhead, anything no matter how small and no matter what it takes. Because once you have some people on the doll you can count on their votes forever. You then leverage that blocking block and grow it. And at the end of the day, that all they really care about.

    November 19, 2013 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  21. ora pike

    socialist believe government is the answer to everything--they will lie and cheat to get big brother to rule-when a president lies to the tax payers 26 times on one issue-obamacare-two things. One, it can't be a good deal and two the president needs to be impeached. WONDER WHY CNN RUNS ALL THIS IN THE MIDDLE OF THEIR "NEWSPAPER" INSTEAD OF THEIR HOME PAGE??? I believe we are headed to a socialist government that always leads to communism–check obama's mentors-his number one was a card carrying communist???? AND THERE JUST ISN'T ANYTHING WE CAN DO ABOUT IT WITH 47% OF THE AMERICAN PUBLIC DEPENDENT UPON BIG BROTHER. GONE WITH THE WIND is upon us.

    November 19, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  22. Fademan

    Sometimes the best fix is to face the challenges of going live. At this point, you can see where the actual hurdles are live in stead of depending on the findings in mock drills. There is a reason it took over 100 years to even implement a plan to reform Health Care, because no one was willing to take the risk. Any program instituted to help the less fortunate, I am for. The Federal government is not trying to control American's lives but to serve as a voice for those who are less fortunate and don't have the power to have the lobbyist that influence elected officials to fight for them. We have needing families that are loosing unemployment and being cut drastically in food stamp supplements (some even working 2 or 3 jobs to maintain) but no one is aggressively addressing this concern. Most GOP looks on this as punishment towards those they consider slackers and not looking for work vice looking for ways to better stimulate our country.

    November 19, 2013 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  23. Data Driven

    @PALibertarian,

    "What's this about a group of Ivy League-educated politicians and wonks thinking they know better about the health care needs of us ordinary folk?"

    You mean the ordinary folk who believe in angels and follow the Kardashians with an intensity outnumbering their interest in politics by a 10-1 margin?

    I'm all for Demos, but let's keep it real, shall we?

    November 19, 2013 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  24. SueKlatu

    Sorry for the post - it appeared that my comments weren't going through.
    The Mexican gun running
    Obama saying the average family would save $2,500 on their premiums
    Forcing businesses to violate their religious beliefs by paying for drugs that abort the unborn
    Violating the rights and sanctity of our Churches
    Spending $634 million on a website that doesn't work
    Obama calling for an increase in our debt when he lambasted Bush for the very same thing
    Obama having NSA spy on 124 Billion Phone Calls in One Month
    Saddling our kids with $17 trillion in debt of which they can never get out of and will not have as good a life as we have
    Bailing out Detroit after decades of corrupt Democratic management
    State Dept. lying about Benghazi
    Voter fraud
    Intentionally trying to hurt Americans during the sequester
    Blocking veterans who secured our freedoms from their monuments but giving the green light for illegals to use Monument Mall

    November 19, 2013 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  25. davecu

    So they knowingly lied to us and congress.
    Barry won't quit so it must be Secretary Kathleen Sebelius gotta go.
    This is quite possibility the biggest fraud perpetrated on the American people in our history.

    Proof that doing "SOMETHING" poorly IS worse that doing nothing. Remember we started off with 40 million with out insurance. we are currently at 5 million without and climbing.
    Will the fix, if successful, be worse the ailment?

    November 19, 2013 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
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