Private consulting firm warned of glitches before launch
November 19th, 2013
12:27 AM ET
7 years ago

Private consulting firm warned of glitches before 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 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. carlin123

    It's NOT the governments job to make sure I have health care. The government shouldn't be telling me what to do. Just the opposite.

    November 19, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  2. Malory Archer


    Healthcare is a privilege, not a right, yada yada yada yada.....I pray that some dittohead returning from a tea party rally isn't involved in a horrible car accident...


    Even if you have the highest personal injury coverage protection on your auto insurance, one serious injury can wipe out $100k in a matter of days. Reattaching one thumb in day surgery would have set me back upwards of $40k without insurance. My out of pocket ended up being less than $3k, so I didn't end up destitute on the street or turned over for collection of a bill that cost more than I bring home in a year after taxes. Imagine the out of control costs if someone is seriously injured and has to spend even a few days in the hospital!

    November 19, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  3. Malory Archer


    For those people defending the incompetence of the web site rollout, I claim you are wrong. As a 30+ year software developer, I know that software projects do not need to be disasters. For those saying the government can't do software, may I remind you that NASA (government) had nearly error-free code when they put men on the moon. The right people can do the


    Since you know so much about it why don't YOU volunteer to hop right in there and figure it out then?

    November 19, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  4. Malory Archer


    Obama's ACA is turning out to be Bush's Katrina.


    Yeah, except nobody's drowning in their attics or baking on their rooftops for days as a result of a website failure. Can you say equivalence fail? And it it's REALLY about the ACA and not the website, please explain what it is about the ACA that you don't like?

    November 19, 2013 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  5. tom l

    I can see you're getting all worked up and doing everything you can to defend our president. I think it's sad when someone you look up to so much lets you down. I know it's disheartening to realize that President Obama is just another ordinary politician that will do or say anything to get a vote. I know it hurts to come to the conclusion that he completely lied just to get the law passed and to get re-elected. I know you wish he had more of a hands-on approach with the website rollout as it might not have been as horrible as it went. I know you wish that his staff had communicated with him about the failures of the site and advised him to not launch but that didn't happen. I know that it's tough to come to the recognition that when he was told of the "IYLYPYCKI" pledge would never be possible and that he kept saying it (while trying to nuance it later) that he looked like a snake oil salesman trying to wiggle his way out of a lie he was caught telling. Come to grips. This is a good lesson for you! All politicians are just politicians. They don't care about you. I hope you have grown up from this ordeal. It's truly enlightening.

    November 19, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  6. John

    Gee Obama caught in another lie what a surprise. How much will it take before this incompetent man is impeached?

    November 19, 2013 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  7. Malory Archer


    Malory Archer,
    I consider Afghanistan and Pakistan comparable to "Desert" as well as foreign nations. Are all of our troops home? I must have missed the memo while playing with my little straw man.


    Yeah, perhaps if you spent less time with your little straw man you would have learned that there are far fewer military personnel in Iraq & Afghanistan than there were five years ago, and there would be even fewer if the rightwing war hawks didn't pitch a fit and accuse President Obama of "pandering to the terrists" and "endangering 'Murka" every time he broaches the subject of further troop drawdowns.

    November 19, 2013 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  8. Eardley Ham Woodbury, MN

    I have been against the ACA since its inception. Mostly I fault the plan because it is like a melange of bandaids applied to a mortal wound. That the rollout failed mightily is not at all surprising. The ACA will never succeed in its promise and after the Democrats lose control of both the Senate and the presidency in 2016, it will be undone and abandoned.

    The only answer to this country's broken healthcare system is a single payer system.

    November 19, 2013 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  9. Allow me to Translate

    Lies and deceit, everywhere you look with Obamacare. It was birthed out of lies and bribes and it has only gotten worse since. When tens of millions more lose their healthcare plans (far, far more than will have gotten them) and have to pay more for less coverage, the Democrats and Obama will be in a world of hurt. And they KNEW this was going to happen, despite all of their lies to the contrary. Obamacare was designed to make this happen.

    November 19, 2013 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  10. It Must Be Asked

    Well, sure looks like the Democrats have done a bang up job getting rid of all those "healthcare free riders". All it cost us was our healthcare insurance, our freedom and untold trillions in taxes. Such a deal!

    Now when are the Democrat going to sovle the real problem in this country? The massive problem of "Federal Income Tax Free Riders"??? Why should 47% get a free ride on these taxes while the rest are forced to carry the load for them.

    November 19, 2013 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  11. Leeman

    They wanted no debate and it was a partisan bill. That should tell you everything. Fleece the 20 & 30 year olds with 20-60% higher premiums to pay for the elderly and get rid of competition. This is what we have and it was stated hundreds of times.
    I grew in an area where there were a lot of self employed high earners who had catastrophic health plans and paid mostly out of pocket which worked. Most of those plans are getting canceled to pay for this whole charade. The swindler and chief knew what he was doing.

    November 19, 2013 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  12. RC

    O lied. So what is new today.

    November 19, 2013 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  13. Malory Archer


    I love to hear liberals refer to existing plans as substandard.

    What makes them substandard – is it because a 70 year old grandmother doesn't have maternity coverage? Does that make her policy substandard


    No, what makes them "substandard" is the fact that they don't cover anything – including preventive and diagnostic services. My daughter had one of those "plans" through her work. It basically amounted her paying $350 a month for a "discount" medical plan in which she could be treated at a "discount" rate at facilities participating in her "plan". Trouble was there wasn't a single facility within a hundred miles of the Tampa Bay area that accepted her "plan" and the "discount" was so very little that it really didn't make a difference.

    November 19, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  14. John

    As more facts come out the more lies we see from this phony administration. Obama should be impeached

    November 19, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  15. P. Turner

    Why isn't anyone talking about Homeland Security's finding of right wing hacking of the website?

    November 19, 2013 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  16. james

    Had a Republican President presided over this disaster? I hate to even think of what would happen.

    November 19, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  17. JJ

    Obamacare is a disaster. Obama and the Democrat Party have destroyed the US healthcare system, the greatest in the world. Tens of millions of people are losing their current policies, seeing huge insurance premium increases and losing their doctors. This is a travesty. Obamacare was originated, written and passed only by the Democrat Party and they should be held accountable. Obama should be IMPEACHED for lying to the American people (and Fast & Furious, Benghazi, IRS & NSA), every Democrat should be voted out of office in 2014 and 2016 for creating this catastrophe of a law and all should feel the wrath of the American people. Someone needs to publish the names of all the Democrat lawyers and activists like Ezekiel Emanuel and Jonathan Gruber (MIT), who wrote this 2,600 page disastrous bill so that they can also feel the wrath of the American people.

    November 19, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  18. Malory Archer

    P. Turner

    Why isn't anyone talking about Homeland Security's finding of right wing hacking of the website?


    Because the "librul media's" deep pocked corporate owners won't stand for that! They don't post facts any more – they create the news based on their owners' agendas and talking points.

    November 19, 2013 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |

    John.8 [44] – abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

    Yep – sounds like Obama to me.

    November 19, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  20. Rudy NYC

    It must be asked wrote:

    Now when are the Democrat going to sovle the real problem in this country? The massive problem of "Federal Income Tax Free Riders"??? Why should 47% get a free ride on these taxes while the rest are forced to carry the load for them.
    I wish I could help you understand just how ridiculous it is for that talking point to be coming out of the mouth of a conservative, because it was conservative POTUS Ronald Reagan who instituted our current framework of progressive taxes.

    Furthermore, many of your "tax free riders" do have taxable incomes. Some older pensions are taxed the money when it goes into the account, while more current pensions tax the money as it comes out. I find it quite ironic that conservatives complain about "tax free riders" from mouth flap, while the other mouth flap is yelling for zero taxes on capital gains.

    November 19, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  21. Rachel

    Next time Democrats. Try to listen to an opposing side one time. You may find out your side is not the side the American people want.

    November 19, 2013 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  22. Rudy NYC

    Just what exactly are they investigating? In order to "investigate" something, aren't you supposed to have evidence of a crime? Aren't you supposed to have the name of a specific suspect and list of suspect criminal activities? When you lack those basic prerequisites, aren't you just engaging in a fishing expediction? Looking for a crime and a suspect?

    November 19, 2013 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  23. Al

    But Obama didn't know until he saw it on the news just the other day.

    November 19, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  24. truth hurts but reality bites

    Obamacare has changed our health insurance system into another welfare system, complete with cost shifting, tax payer subsidies, and outright free healthcare.

    Single young males get the biggest shafting. Why any of these people voted for Obama, I do not know. They obviously voted against their best interest. Now, thanks to Obama, do they not have a job, they have to buy over priced healthcare insurance designed to pay for others healthcare, not theirs. They will also be paying for things they do not need or may never use.

    Older people? Well, you got the shaft several ways too. $715 billion stolen from Medicare to pay for Obamacare, paying for healthcare options you don't want and will never use, unless the elderly start bearing babies.

    To solve a problem with 15% of the population, Obama and the Democrats wrecked what the 85% had and were pleased with. Why didn't they just give them all free Mediciad as that appears to be where most are ending up? It would have been cheaper and the rest of us wouldn't have gotten the shaft in the process.

    Then again, this was always about total government control of our healthcare. Lies, lies, lies no matter where you look when it comes to Obamacare.

    November 19, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  25. Lisa P.


    It's NOT the governments job to make sure I have health care. The government shouldn't be telling me what to do. Just the opposite.
    November 19, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am

    So chip in a couple of hundred a year to keep the emergency rooms operating (just in case) and go about your business. No one is forcing you to get health insurance. The government could care less if you are insured - just don't come crying to them if that plan goes South on you 'cause they aren't going to be in the CYA business anymore. You get to deal with your own health crisis bankruptcy.

    November 19, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
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