Documents Show Federal Exchange Had Issues Prior to LaunchIn documents released Tuesday by House Republicans, CGI Federal -- a federal contractor that worked on the problem-plagued federal health insurance exchange website -- said its employees warned CMS in September about specific technical issues and inadequate time for tests before Oct. 1, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports (Easley, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 10/29).
The documents highlight several open risks and issues with HealthCare.gov, such as inaccessibility to "monitoring tools" and "hub services," as well as "central log collection/view" capabilities. The documents noted that employees "repeatedly asked" CMS and another federal contractor "but have not been granted this access" (Johns/Wolf, CNN, 10/29).
In a status report, CGI employees also noted that "due to the compressed schedule, there is not enough time built in to allow for adequate performance testing." They added in the report dated Sept. 6 that the pre-launch timeframe was not "adequate to complete full functional, system, and integration testing activities."
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chair Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) released the documents as part of a committee investigation into the troubled launch of the exchange portal, less than one week after a top CGI official -- and officials from three other federal contractors -- testified before a House committee about the company's work on the website ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 10/29).
CMS, CGI Respond
In response, CMS officials highlighted a part of the report that noted that as of August 2013, all "upcoming major milestones" were "on track" and said it was "misleading" of Issa's committee "to cherry pick a few lines." CMS spokesperson Brian Cook added that when considered in its entirety, the report is more of a "list of things to do," but "not a dire warning" (CNN, 10/29).
However, CGI Senior Vice President Cheryl Campbell -- who testified at the House hearing last week -- said her company did all it could to warn the agency of potential issues and that it was CGI's responsibility "to tell our client to go live or not go live," but not to complete the required end-to-end testing ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 10/29).
Issa Subpoenas Other Contractor
In related news, Issa announced Tuesday that he has issued subpoenas to Quality Software Services Incorporated to submit all documentation and contact memos with HHS relating to HealthCare.gov, the Washington Times reports (Dinan, Washington Times, 10/29).
Issa said QSSI failed to comply with the initial deadline of Oct. 25 to submit the documents, but the company now has until Nov. 11, at 12 p.m., to hand over the requested documents (Shabad, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 10/29).
The committee is seeking information that might show whether QSSI took the necessary precautions to protect consumer information on the exchange portal (Washington Times, 10/29).
Problems on Exchange Could Limit Consumer Choices
If the glitches plaguing the federal exchange website are not fixed by next month, some experts warn that many U.S. residents could lose access to low-cost health insurance options, Reuters reports.
For their coverage to take effect on Jan. 1, consumers must enroll in a health insurance plan on the exchange by Dec. 15. If the site's application glitches and subsidy-eligibility issues are not resolved by the end of November, residents in health plans that do not comply with certain coverage requirements under the ACA, such as access to preventive care and mental health services, could lose their health coverage.
According to Reuters, high-risk patients and those with pre-existing conditions are particularly vulnerable because many of them have short-term plans that expire at the end of the year. Such consumers might be forced to turn to individual plans offered by insurers outside of the exchange. However, such plans might not offer tax subsidies, which could require consumers to pay more and might limit the types of services they can receive.
Joseph Antos -- a health policy expert at the American Enterprise Institute said this poses a "significant risk" to low-income individuals. He said, "It's the people who stand to actually get subsidies who are most at risk" (Krauskopf/Morgan, Reuters, 10/29).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.