Who is to Blame for Healthcare Exchange Glitches?

The rollout of online health exchange site Healthcare.gov at the beginning of the month has been stymied with glitches preventing millions of consumers from creating accounts or completing the enrollment process, along with as many as 100 additional flaws found in the system. Testimony before a panel convened by the House of Representatives has provided an object of public blame for these glitches: contractor from Canadian firm CGI Group Inc.

Cheryl Campbell, senior VP of the unit responsible for site design, testified before the House that more time should have been devoted to end-to-end testing and refused to give a set date for the site to be fully functional. Campbell claimed that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services – the Health and Human Services agency responsible for the health exchanges – made the final decision to take the site live despite inadequate testing. She also testified, however, that CGI did not make a recommendation to delay the site launch.

Other contractors testified that they were only given two weeks to perform testing, far shorter than the industry standard of months. Each contractor maintained that they fulfilled their part of the project and disavowed responsibility for the final product, and none could provide a definitive date for the glitches to be resolved.

Experts in the tech world, meanwhile, have suggested that the issues with Healthcare.gov could be a technical “black swan” event, or a project that faces out-of-control costs and extreme consequences that could spell failure – in this case, a failure for the Obama administration. President Barack Obama has publicly decried the situation, claiming “Nobody’s madder than me.”

Testimony will continue throughout the week and possibly into next week, but the administration has already appointed a contractor to repair the site as quickly as possible.

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