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. humtake

    This is my job. I run risk assessments on all new vendors and applications developed and I can say that the White House is no different than most other places. They love to have someone overseeing the risk assessments so they can appease any regulatory concerns, yet they fail to actually make plans to fix the risks uncovered by the assessment.

    This is what you get. Sure, some things can be considered trivial and not need attention, but if the assessment is bad enough, you better use it to create a team to fix the issues.

    November 19, 2013 07:10 am at 7:10 am |
  2. Bob

    How many lies will this guy tell before this fiasco is over ?

    November 19, 2013 07:10 am at 7:10 am |
  3. Colo001

    Surprised? I doubt anybody would be surprised to hear this. That is transparency fir you., All you people who have been defending this administration how will you spin this to rationalize the Administrations actions?

    November 19, 2013 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  4. muchadoaboutnothing

    We had a new record keeping system installed at work. I work at an agency that employs about 400 people. The new systems has had multiple problems, the IT people work on fixing thing every day. I do not think it is unusual that a new system that 30 million people are suposed to use would have massive problems. This has not surprised me at all. In time, it will be fixed . Like all computer systems there will be on-going problems and upgrades.

    November 19, 2013 07:12 am at 7:12 am |
  5. johnsmith

    Obama is nothing more than a liar.

    November 19, 2013 07:14 am at 7:14 am |
  6. terryrayc

    Wait you mean Obama just got caught in another lie.....This guy is better than Clinton.

    November 19, 2013 07:15 am at 7:15 am |
  7. terryrayc

    Woot Obama Lie #10665731122.

    I guess he's not just happy with beating Clinton...he want's to break all world records.

    November 19, 2013 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  8. Marcus

    Everyone can have a point of view. You could make even president of united states responsible, but who is the looser? This is his last term, if we care for the millions of people who impacted, extend our hands and try to fix it. I am an application architect, understand the complexity, this is not a simple website where you can hire few folks and fix it. When lawmakers dragged every decision to last minute, and expect the change in next day is not reality. People who dragged conversations and decisions to last minute are the root cause of this mess. There are thousands of engineers working round the clock to fix the issue. Firing anyone from the team is not an option now.

    November 19, 2013 07:18 am at 7:18 am |
  9. wakeup

    what a surprise !

    November 19, 2013 07:18 am at 7:18 am |
  10. giggy

    For the writers of these articles who want to keep writing about a glitch in a website, this information is for you. ACA is given from carriers of insurance such as BlueCross and Humana. Like all carriers of insurance they have data mined for clients. The reason you don't here people saying that I cant get my insurance is that every food stamp office offer ACA information when calling about assistance. ACA is at Walgreens and health agencies. If I owned a business a web site might be great but it is not the only means only doing business. Since a great deal of people needing ACA are underemployed and may or may not have a computer this website would be of little use. So start thinking like a poor person when you write this article. What would a poor person do who would they achieve insurance. The rich looked to the site while the underemplyed looked through agencies associated with the site.

    November 19, 2013 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
  11. iceload9

    So they came in and said there's a bunch of problems. Then the contractors came in and said they were addressing the issue's (as they always say).

    November 19, 2013 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  12. surfsock1

    I've lost coverage, confidence and count. What is this? Lie # 236?

    November 19, 2013 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  13. Oakspar77777

    Surprised? Not at all.

    Accountability? Not in this Administration.

    November 19, 2013 07:29 am at 7:29 am |
  14. Rachel

    Of course they were warned, why does this surprise anyone? Hey CNN why not follow up with the story about the unemployment figure manipulation the Obama administration did back in October, 2012 just before the election and how the numbers dropped sharply? Seems all the lies and chickens are now coming home to roost.

    November 19, 2013 07:30 am at 7:30 am |
  15. jonathan blakeney

    its not like he sold weapons to another country, its not like he shut the government down, its a damn website people! What r u idiots or something. I guarantee u the republicans had it sabotage anyway!

    November 19, 2013 07:30 am at 7:30 am |
  16. wv

    Fact is this administration cannot stop lying. The saddest part about this whole thing isn't that he lied, all politicians lie, it'a that his supporters blindly follow and defend him.

    November 19, 2013 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
  17. William R. Hill

    Ignore the facts and suffer the consequences. Just because you desperately want something to work just the way you want it to doesn't mean it will.

    November 19, 2013 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
  18. Ric

    We deserve everything we get after electing this guy..twice. What an embarrassment he is.

    November 19, 2013 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
  19. fred

    Well that's no surprise coming from an administration that has been deceitful to the American public his entire time as President.

    November 19, 2013 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  20. YeahRight

    So I guess we know what he knew, and when he knew it now. Time for impeachment.

    November 19, 2013 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  21. Clown Car USA

    Didn't Obama just give a speech saying that nobody was informed of any issues with the fancy website? It's funny how this website cost almost 100 million tax dollars to make and other major websites on the internet with 10x the number of users cost about $2 million to make. Maybe this is how the jobs numbers have been increasing?

    This guy has told more lies than the Toronto mayor, but yet he is still parading around like an awesome President. Wake up people.

    November 19, 2013 07:34 am at 7:34 am |
  22. GPS

    Does this surprise anyone? Based on news reports and press conferences, this is what was expected. They had to have known there were serious issues and glitches to come. Only time will tell, but this goodwill venture may turn quite dark for the majority of Americans. Let's hope that this is not the case.

    November 19, 2013 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
  23. Hillary

    Whatever, YT's, it's still not as bad as bush's lies about WMD's and his economic disaster.

    November 19, 2013 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
  24. Bill D

    I'm not sure which is the bigger failure, Obama, or Obamacare.

    November 19, 2013 07:36 am at 7:36 am |
  25. Sol

    And others that said it could be achieved.

    November 19, 2013 07:37 am at 7:37 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22