A management expert hired to turn around the bug-riddled Obamacare website said Friday the insurance portal is fixable and that a new general contractor will help the Obama administration “punch out” problems so that the vast majority of users can enroll by the end of November.
Jeff Zients, a former budget director at the White House, said the administration tapped Quality Software Services Inc. (QSSI) — an existing Obamacare contractor — to oversee improved performance on HealthCare.gov and iron out widely criticized structural bugs in the exchange system.
The website debuted Oct. 1 and was supposed to help uninsured Americans shop for private health coverage, often with the help of income-based government subsidies.
He said the website’s much-maligned performance so far has been “volatile” and “unacceptable,” but a team of technical experts can right the ship.
“Let me be clear — HealthCare.gov is fixable,” he told reporters on a conference call hosted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
Several contractors, including QSSI, told Congress on Thursday that CMS did not fully test the federal exchange system until two weeks prior to launch.
CMS officials said Friday that QSSI had “done a good job already” in supporting the federal data hub that’s needed to verify users’ personal information before they qualify for subsidies and shop for insurance.
The Obamacare repair team faces an arduous and painstaking task, but they are ready to tackle a “punch list” of problems, according to Mr. Zients.
“We’re going to punch them out, one by one,” he said.
But it is unclear if his target date for high-functionality will gibe with political pressure on Capitol Hill to make things easier on Americans who are expected to have health insurance by next year, under the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.
Senate Democrats who opposed a delay to the mandate during wrangling that led to a recent government shutdown now say the White House should extend open enrollment past March 31and reconsider enforcement of penalties for flouting the individual mandate, if problems on Healthcare.gov persist.
CMS said 700,000 people have submitted applications to gain insurance through the federal exchange system or one of 15 state-run exchanges, although it will not release completed-enrollment figures until next month.