- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 31, 2014

A newly minted member of the Obama administration’s health care team told Congress Thursday he expects a much better website experience in Obamacare’s second round this fall.

“For one, we have a website that’s already up and running,” said Andy Slavitt, who joined the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services three weeks ago after setting up the law’s federal data hub with his former employer, QSSI, Inc.

Mr. Slavitt was responding to Rep. Tim Murphy, Pennsylvania Republican who noted at the outset of an oversight hearing that House Republicans’ suspicions last year about HealthCare.gov, the main Obamacare website, were proven correct when it turned out to be a costly “unmitigated disaster.”

The hearing before a panel of the Energy and Commerce Committee focused on what went wrong with the site, which served 36 states during the law’s first sign-up round from October to mid-April.

But Mr. Murphy also wanted to know what to expect this fall, after the administration’s assurances last year were proven false.

Mr. Slavitt said software releases this summer — parts of the HealthCare.gov system are still being built — are occurring in a more controlled and timely manner than they were prior to last year’s launch.

“Everybody knows what they need to do,” he said.

Mr. Slavitt told lawmakers he signed an ethics pledge that prevents him communicating with his former employer, which serves as the project’s system integrator, except in limited circumstances that advance the project’s goals.

He also dumped his stock in QSSI, he said.

An official from the Government Accountability Office is set to testify Thursday that poor oversight and management by the Obama administration hampered the website, which crashed upon launch and had to be salvaged by a tech-savvy team.

Mr. Murphy noted that the GAO put the price tag for “this boondoggle” at close to $1 billion.

Rep. Dina DeGette, Colorado Democrat, said her party will “stipulate” that the tech rollout was a disaster.

“But I guess I’d like to know how long we’re going to be beating this drum,” she said.

She noted that 8 million people signed up for coverage, beating expectations, after the website recovered, and that many people are pleased with their plans.

“These hearings all have one purpose — to undermine the Affordable Care Act regardless of the facts,” said Rep. Henry Waxman, California Democrat and ranking member of the full committee.