Thursday’s report by Reuters showed that – overall -- the contractors who are receiving millions of taxpayer dollars through government contracts to design and ensure a successful website launch offered more excuses, contradictory statements and finger pointing with their testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee than they provided answers of clarity and accountability.
According to a transcript of her prepared testimony, CGI Vice President Cheryl Campbell said that no end-to-end testing of HealthCare.gov occurred until the last two weeks of September.”
But in Andrew Slavitt, an executive vice president of Optum, testified that testing didn’t occur “until the last few days” before the website launched Oct. 1.
While Campbell blamed the Department of Health and Human Services, Slavitt blamed the Obama administration.
According to Thursday’s report by The Washington Post -- which, as Examiner discovered Friday, now appears to have been severely edited to remove all aspects that had previously been most unflattering for the Obama administration but is still visible on Pat Dollard's website -- Campbell and Slavitt agreed that they would have liked to have more time to work out the problems.
But Oregon Republican Rep. Greg Walden reminded the contractors that they told the committee last month that the system “was good to go, and it wasn’t.”
“Did you ever tell this committee more testing was needed in order to make this work?” California Democrat Rep. Diana DeGette asked Campbell.
“I don’t think I was asked that question,” Campbell replied.
While Campbell initially told the committee that she didn’t “have the results” of the testing -- referring lawmakers to CMS for that information – she later testified that the system crashed during end-to-end testing and 200 failures occurred during that testing.
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) called the hearing a ‘monkey court,’ slamming Republicans for raising what he considered to be baseless concerns about privacy and security issues regarding the government’s healthcare website.
But a Sept. 18 congressional report had already warned that “the main concern for consumers is the heightened risk of identity theft and financial loss from a poorly managed outreach campaign.”
On Sept. 30 – after citing a host of known website problems -- Scott Gottlieb, Michael Astrue of The Wall Street Journal predicted the Oct. 1 crash.
“The biggest risk, they warned, “involves data security” and the “hastily hired and trained” navigators who “were not given extensive background checks.”
As Examiner noted Oct. 2, the "2013 Survey on Medical Identity Theft" warned that "medical identity theft is quickly becoming a national healthcare issue with life-threatening consequences.”
My Journal Courier reported Oct. 7 that “growing concerns about identity theft and fraud” led the Illinois Department of Insurance “to issue a public warning.”
CBS reported Thursday that Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan “is looking into what appears to be a bogus campaign to sign people up for federal health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act.”
Don’t be tricked. You may think you’re signing up for affordable health care, but experts say it could be a scheme to get you to enroll in something else.
The Weekly Standard reported Oct. 14 that it discovered a discomforting disclaimer -- hidden in the Healthcare.gov “source code” -- that is not visible to website visitors on the “Terms and Conditions” page.
You have no reasonable expectation of privacy regarding any communication or data transiting or stored on this information system.
At any time, and for any lawful Government purpose, the government may monitor, intercept, and search and seize any communication or data transiting or stored on this information system.
As Peter Doocy reported for Fox News Oct. 16, “security experts are worried” this disclaimer “may represent an ominous sign -- that the U.S. government is ill-equipped to handle identity thieves.”
Still, HHS was quick to dismiss concerns over the discovered “source code.”
"When consumers fill out their online Marketplace applications,” Doocy quoted from the statement issued by HSS in an email, “they can trust that the information they're providing is protected by stringent security standards and that the technology underlying the application process has been tested and is secure."
However, as USA Today reported May 9, HHS officials – who “spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about internal meetings” – also said the department had "met its deadlines,” “tested its system" and assured that the exchanges "can support expected large volumes of traffic."
But the website contractors aren't the only ones offering questionable accounts of the ongoing problems with the Obamcare roll-out.
President Barack Obama also told reporters at an April 30 press conference that the only thing “left to implement” with Obamacare was setting up the exchanges “because the other stuff has been implemented and it’s working fine.”
But a June 5 memorandum from the Congressional Research Service revealed that the White House had actually “missed half” of the 82 deadlines “legally required” by Obamacare and that “some of those deadlines remain unmet to this day.”
When asked about the glitch-ridden Obamacare website during Tuesday’s daily briefing, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was equally evasive, repeatedly referring reporters to the Department of Health and Human Services, which has been likewise unwilling to provide answers.
When Jon Stewart asked how many people had enrolled in Obamacare during an Oct. 8 interview on “The Daily Show,” Sebelius said: “I can't tell you because I don't know.”
However, a new revelation suggests that the administration may be actively trying to keep actual enrollment numbers a secret.
As Inforum reported Tuesday, James Nichol – the consumer sales manager for North Dakota’s largest insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield -- said the Obama administration asked the company Monday “not to publicize how many people have signed up for health insurance through a new online exchange.”
Asked during a Sept. 30 interview by NBC News’ Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Nancy Snyderman to describe what “success” looks like, Sebelius said “success looks like at least 7 million people having signed up by the end of March 2014.”
On Tuesday, Sebelius told CNN’s chief medical correspondent, Sanjay Gupta that Obama wasn’t aware of the website problems until “the first couple of days” after the Oct. 1 launch.
However, CNN correspondent Brian Todd told Senior Anchor Wolf Blitzer during the Oct. 9 segment of “The Situation Room” that “the administration was warned about these potential problems months in advance.”
“Moreover,” Examiner noted Wednesday, other statements made by Obama at the April 30 press conference “appear to confirm that he was, in fact, made aware of the problems with the exchange website ‘months in advance.’”
Even if we do everything perfectly, there will still be glitches and bumps, and there will be stories that can be written that say, oh, look, this thing is not working the way it’s supposed to, and this happened and that happened.
Asked “about tech people – and her recent announcement that “the best and the brightest” are being brought in to fix the website problems – Gupta asked Sebelius “why didn't they bring their A team in in the first place?”
“I can’t tell you,” she said.
Sebelius also refused to give the names of “people or companies” that are being brought in.
Sebelius has also failed to address why CGI is still part of “their teams.”
As The Washington Examiner reported Oct. 10, CGI’s parent company -- Montreal-based CGI Group, “was officially terminated in September 2012 by an Ontario government health agency after the firm missed three years of deadlines and failed to deliver the province’s flagship online medical registry.”
Sebelius also claimed “people are signing up every day” and that “people have available coverage and no one, I think it's important to say, Sanjay, is losing coverage now.”
But The Daily Caller reported Thursday that “the number of cancellation notices greatly exceed the number of Obamacare enrollees.”
As Kaiser Health News reported Monday, “health plans are sending hundreds of thousands of cancellation letters to people who buy their own coverage, frustrating some consumers who want to keep what they have and forcing others to buy more costly policies.”
The Washington Examiner reported Thursday that “CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield is being forced to cancel plans that currently cover 76,000 individuals in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., due to changes made by President Obama's health care law.”
In addition, CBS News reported Wednesday that it “has uncovered a serious pricing problem” as with HealthCare.gov has “a new online feature” that “can dramatically underestimate the cost of insurance.”
Asked at Tuesday’s press briefing if the White House will “cooperate” with the House Energy and Commerce Committee -- before which Sebelius refused to appear on Thursday, choosing instead to attend a gala at the John F. Kennedy library in Boston -- Carney offered his own “monkey court” suggestion, inferring several times that the White House did not see the committee as “legitimate.”
“Again,” Carney reiterated at one point, “I’m just saying that we cooperate with legitimate congressional oversight. That’s something you’ve heard me say frequently. The Department of Health and Human Services has engaged with Congress numerous times and will continue to engage with Congress numerous times on these and other issues.”
Again, HHS – and Sebelius – have been unwilling to provide straight answers to anyone.
But there is an additional exclusive Examiner sidebar regarding the "severely edited" report by The Washington Post.
While the report initially stated that “lawmakers got a partial price tag for HealthCare.gov” during Thursday’s testimony -- “and it was significantly higher than previous estimates" -- now it simply states that “contractors also offered updated price tags for their parts of the project.”
The original report also stated:
A Government Accountability Office report estimated in June that CGI Federal had received $70 million for its work on the Web site and QSSI had received $55 million to create the data hub.
But Campbell said Thursday that her company’s total contract was “about $290 million.” She said CGI has received $112 million so far. Slavitt said QSSI received “just under $85 million” for the data hub, which covers much — but not all — of the firm’s work for CMS.
Now it simply reads:
According to the executives, CGI has been paid $112 million, a sum that would likely go up to $196 million by year’s end. QSSI’s bill would be close to $85 million by year’s end. Equifax has so far collected $2 million, and Serco’s contract was for $200 million, with about $30 million already collected.
Most notable is the complete elimination of this statement:
The site thus cost taxpayers upwards of $375 million.