ACA Contractors Optimistic on Website Fix, Blame CMS for Botched Launch

Thursday, October 24, 2013 - Today, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing, entitled PPACA Failures, Didn’t Know or Didn’t Disclose, to examine the “glitches” that have plagued implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) federally-facilitated exchange (FFE) website. Specifically, members sought to glean information from the website’s developers as to whether the Administration was either unaware of the problems associated with the launch of the website,, or if they chose not to disclose the problems ahead of the October 1 launch. Today’s panel consisted of four outside contractors who were played a key role in the developing the website, including: Cheryl Campbell, Senior Vice President, CGI Federal; Andrew Slavitt, Group Executive Vice President, Quality Software Services Inc. (QSSI); Lynn Spellecy, Corporate Counsel, Equifax Workforce Solutions; and John Lau, Program Director, Serco.

While the hearing’s intended purpose was to discuss how to solve the issues that have troubled the federal exchange website, Members largely treated the hearing as referendum on ACA, with each side reinforcing their respective positions on the health reform law. Republicans on the Committee criticized the roll out of the website, and claimed the mangled implementation of the web portal was a harbinger of things to come in regards to the law. Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-CA) and other Democrats, in turn, accused the GOP of exploiting the website failures to scare Americans from signing up for healthcare in an effort to undermine program. In a particularly heated exchange, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), ranking Democrat on the Committee’s heath panel, went as far to call the hearing “a monkey court,” refusing to yield time to Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI).

While the hearing generated significant emotion and renewed debate on delaying the ACA, the most significant developments were new reports that CMS did not conduct the necessary end-to-end testing of the fully integrated system. Today’s events set the stage for next Wednesday’s hearing, when Secretary Sebelius will testify before the Committee. Also, CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner will testify next Tuesday before the House Ways and Means Committee. Both officials will certainly face questions as to why CMS failed to conduct the necessary testing to ensure a more efficient rollout of the website, and why the Administration did not delay the October 1 launch after problems with the site’s functionality became apparent.

If you are interested in a comprehensive summary of today's hearing, please contact Thorn Run Partners.