The House Sinks Its Teeth into the Healthcare.gov Contractors

The contractors that built the "giltchy," "disastrous" Healthcare.gov website are appearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, answering questions about how and why the system failed to work as intended.

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The contractors that built the "giltchy," "disastrous" Healthcare.gov website are appearing before the Republican-led House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday, answering questions from members of Congress about how and why the system failed to work as intended.

It's a significant moment for House Republicans, one of the first moments in which they can draw attention to tangible problems with the roll-out of the Obamacare insurance exchanges. Titled "PPACA [Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act] Implementation Failures: Didn’t Know or Didn’t Disclose?," members of Congress are hearing from four of the vendors that helped design the site. They are: CGI Federal, Optum/QSSI, Equifax Workforce Solutions, and Serco. (See our overview of their prepared testimony.)

At the outset, none of the contractors admitted that they had either predicted the extent of the errors or recommended to the government that the October 1st date might need to be moved. (The witness from CGI Federal, the largest vendor involved in the process, stated it "was not our position" to make such a recommendation.) So far, the questioning has largely focused on awareness of errors, and, at the prompting of Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn, the protection of applicant privacy.

Michigan Rep. John Dingell summarized the Democrats' argument. Of CGI, he asked: "Do you believe it is unusual for there to be problems with such a large project after launch, yes or no?" The response: "No."

There is one party missing from Thursday's hearing: the Department of Health and Human Services employees that managed the contractors to build the site. The HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will testify next week. (That hearing: "PPACA Implementation Failures: Answers from HHS.")

If you want to follow along with the testimony as it happens, some recommendations for who to follow on Twitter. Clay Johnson, who helped found Blue State Digital; Sarah Kliff, reporter from the Washington Post.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.