Administration Got What It Deserved in Botched HealthCare.gov Rollout, Report Says

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, left, talks with Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, left, talks with Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Lawmakers attribute the website’s initial failure poor IT and management.

A joint Senate minority report issued Thursday further criticized the Obama administration’s botched HealthCare.gov rollout last year, attributing the website’s shortfalls to a poor information technology plan, even poorer management and leadership that focused more on plausible deniability than performance.

The report, issued by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is essentially a 34-page evisceration of the administration’s handling of HealthCare.gov, which launched Oct. 1 but couldn’t properly handle traffic from Americans shopping for insurance.  HealthCare.gov became the use case for how not to handle large IT projects for the rest of government, but the Senate report findings suggest many of its most major pitfalls could have been avoided.

The report cites several “red flags” in the project’s development process, including some that were well-publicized before the failed launch, including by the Government Accountability Office, as well as new pieces of information gleaned from reports issued by independent auditors.

Altogether, the report makes clear that large IT projects – the government obligated $677 million on the website last year – require much more than technology to flourish. They require leadership, effective management and communication between developers and a transparent approach to the public – none of which were occurred adequately during the implementation of HealthCare.gov, according to the report.

“The administration looked the other way on problems, even when the independent contractor hired to monitor the project was waving red flags, pointing to likely failure,” Grassley said in a statement. “This website wasn’t a ‘Field of Dreams’ fantasy where you hope for the best and everything works out because it’s a movie.  This involved taxpayer money and website users who wasted their time on something that wasn’t working.  When political will overpowers practical considerations, you get a mess like this website rollout.”

Some of the most troubling red flags listed in the report came from external auditors.

In one review, McKinsey & Company found that six months out, the design of the final system was considered “open,” meaning there was no fixed plan in place to follow. Contractors, including heavily-criticized and later-replaced CGI Federal, were essentially working blind, the report explained to the White House and the Health and Human Services Department. The McKinsey audit made recommendations to the administration, but the report stated the recommendations weren’t heard by top contractor leads over federal overseers until after the Oct. 1 launch.

The technical failures were also foreseen by TurningPoint Global Solutions, the auditors the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services contracted for technical and managerial reviews of the federal exchange. From September 2012 to September 2013, TurningPoint identified numerous technical and managerial concerns that likely played a role in the website’s failure, including “serious deficits in cloud computing.” Other findings from TurningPoint included 21,000 defective lines of code, no contingency plan for dealing with system defects and some 677 “serious defects” found in system tests.

TurningPoint’s audits suggested that contractors were not adhering to CMS’ chosen “agile” methodology to code for the federal exchange, focusing time on fixes or work-arounds than a final system.  These dire warnings were apparently not heeded, as the Senate report states it was not clear whether anyone outside the group at CMS that TurningPoint reported to even saw the reports.

This information squares against what public officials told Congress and expressed to the public, a prime example of politics trumping policy, according to the Senate report. On the inside, the report claims almost everyone involved with the project knew it was destined to fail. The public, however, didn’t have a clue.

“If there is one takeaway lesson from the failures associated with the launch of HealthCare.gov, it is that there was a lack of clear leadership from the beginning of the project,” the report stated. “Although CMS was in charge of building the website, CMS relied on a broad ‘enterprise architecture’ to make sure that all of the different offices were coordinating. Unfortunately, this approach made project management and accountability difficult.

“The ambiguity of responsibility gave all parties plausible deniability when things went wrong,” the report continued. “Each contractor and CMS unit could point fingers at others when the meltdown occurred. The fact that no one was flying the plane was not a surprise to HHS or CMS leadership or to the White House. They had known for months.”

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.