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Republicans say new report points to Obamacare security problems

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Republicans on Tuesday called on President Obama to pull down the problem-plagued HealthCare.gov website as a key administration technology officer testified that they still haven't built a payment system that needs to be up and running by the new year.

Henry Chao, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services official who oversaw construction of HealthCare.gov, said they are still building a part of the health exchange program that will handle "back office systems, the accounting systems, the payment systems," which account for at least 30 percent of the site.

Yet, Mr. Chao assured a congressional panel that the new work will be tested by January, and said the front-end part of the portal, which consumers are using now, is secure.

"While the federal marketplace has had some performance issues that could have been addressed through more comprehensive functionality and performance testing, I want to be clear that we have conducted extensive security testing for the systems that went live on October 1st," he said.

With Mr. Obama's credibility lagging and armed with a newly disclosed report about the federal health exchange's shortcomings, House Republicans launched a fresh round of attacks against the health care law Tuesday, focusing on testing and security of the federal health insurance marketplace.

Rep. Tim Murphy, Pennsylvania Republican and chairman of an oversight panel with the Energy and Commerce Committee, said an analysis by McKinsey — a nationally known management consulting firm — last spring showed administration officials knew about the website's problems as far back as March.

The report, which warned of unclear goals and the lack of "end-to-end" testing on the system, appeared to foreshadow some of the problems that spoiled the federal marketplace's Oct 1. debut.

Mr. Murphy said the federal Obamacare website that connects 36 states to coverage offerings might get better over time, but Americans cannot turn back the clock if their personal information is compromised.

"Right now, HealthCare.gov screams to those who are trying to break into the system, 'If you like my health care info, maybe you can steal it,'" he said.

Democrats said they are concerned about the law's rollout, too, but fear Republicans are piling on concerns that have no basis.

"We should not create smoke if there's no fire," said Rep. Diana DeGette, Colorado Democrat and ranking minority member of Mr. Murphy's panel.

Meanwhile, the House science committee held a hearing with computer specialists, many of whom testified that because of what they saw as security problems, they wouldn't leave the federal health website running.

"Given the testimony we have heard today, there is only one reasonable course of action. Mr. President, take down this website," said Rep. Lamar Smith, Texas Republican and chairman of the committee.

Criticism of the health care law has seesawed between Web problems that hobbled the main Obamacare website and the millions of cancellation notices insurers sent to customers on the individual market — a development that belied Mr. Obama's promise that Americans could keep their health plans under the Affordable Care Act.

"The president broke a major promise to the American people, and now it is hard for them to trust any assurances under this law," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, said Tuesday.

With little to no hope of repealing the health care law while Mr. Obama is in office, the GOP has turned to problems with HealthCare.gov. and rising distrust of the president's word — a trend borne out in public opinion polls — as catalysts for their attacks on Obamacare.

"This is Machiavelli 101 and Republicans are not going to let a good crisis go to waste," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell said. "They are likely to keep piling on until President Obama has zero credibility with the American people on health care, or any subject, for that matter."

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