Skip to main content

First on CNN: Obama administration warned about health care website

By Joe Johns and Z. Byron Wolf, CNN
October 30, 2013 -- Updated 1933 GMT (0333 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A confidential report obtained by CNN details warning that site wasn't ready to go live
  • The main contractor warned of a number of open risks and issues for HealthCare.gov
  • NEW: Agency overseeing website said it addressed problems, was told project on track

Washington (CNN) -- The Obama administration was given stark warnings just one month before launch that the federal healthcare site was not ready to go live, according to a confidential report obtained by CNN.

Read documents

The caution, from the main contractor CGI, warned of a number of open risks and issues for the HealthCare.gov web site even as company executives were testifying publicly that the project had achieved key milestones.

On Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Medicaid Chief Marilyn Tavenner, whose job it was to oversee the October 1 rollout of the website, said she did not foresee its problems.

"No, we had tested the website and we were comfortable with its performance," she said. "Now, like I said, we knew all along there would be as with any new website, some individual glitches we would have to work out. But, the volume issue and the creation of account issues was not anticipated and obviously took us by surprise. And did not show up in testing."

Tavenner: Sorry for problems, but system working

5 things we learned from Tuesday's hearing

Obamacare website warnings ignored
Official apologizes for Obamacare site

But the CGI document, which describes "top risks currently open" and "outstanding issues currently being mitigated" says the testing timeframes are "not adequate to complete full functional, system, and integration testing activities" and lists the impact of the problems as "significant."

Another element is listed as " not enough time in schedule to conduct adequate performance testing" and given the highest priority.

Healthcare.gov: What works and what doesn't?

CGI had no comment other than to confirm authenticity of the report that also gave "the highest priority" and warns "we don't have access to monitoring tools" and "hub services are intermittently unavailable" -- short for the "site's not working sometimes."

One concern, listed as "severe," warned, "CGI does not have access to necessary tools to manage envs in test, imp, and prod. Specifically (1) we don't have access to central log collection / view (2) we don't have access to monitoring tools. We have repeatedly asked CMS and URS but have not been granted this access."

The report, which documents issues from August 2013 and was sent to at least one employee at CMS by an executive at CGI on September 6, was submitted in response to a request by the House Oversight Committee, which is now investigating the rollout of the health law.

Earlier: Contractors blame government for Obamacare website woes

E-mail addresses and some names on the document were redacted before it was obtained by CNN.

CGI also said in the document they were putting a team in place to alert whenever the hub goes down.

CNNMoney: Obamacare site partially restored after another outage

CMS pointed to part of the report that said all "upcoming major milestones" were seen as "on track."

Brian Cook, an agency spokesman, said the report was "not a dire warning" but more of a "list of things to do" if read in full.

"What's been done, what needs to be done, what needs to be resolved. It is misleading to cherry pick a few lines," he said, adding that the report identified issues and "we worked to address those issues and all issues identified."

It is not clear if a later report detailed that the issues were resolved. But the warnings run counter to Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' stated optimism to CNN's Sanjay Gupta that when she woke up October 1, things would go smoothly.

Cheryl Campbell, a Senior Vice President for CGI Federal told lawmakers on Capitol Hill October 25, "no one ever gets enough time for testing."

Campbell, whose company has a contract worth a possible total of more than $200 million for its work on the system, noted than an end-to-end test conducted within two weeks of the launch caused the system to crash. She said it was up to CMS to decide on proceeding with the rollout.

Campbell did not raise any alarm bells on Capitol Hill back in September, when she told a House Committee CGI was confident it could get the job done.

"To date, the marketplace implementation has achieved all of its key milestones from the initial architecture review in October 2011 to project baseline review in March 2012 and, most recently, the operational readiness review in September 2013," before the website went live.

Up on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Tavenner, kicked off testimony by saying she's sorry for the Obamacare rollout.

"We know that consumers are eager to purchase this coverage and to the millions of Americans who have attempted to use healthcare.gov to shop and enroll in healthcare coverage," she said. "I want to apologize to you that the website has not worked as well as it should."

It was a big switch from August, before CGI's report, when Tavenner told lawmakers the rollout was "on track."

"CMS is ready for October 1 and we're motivated and ready for the hard work ahead," she said at that time.

Related: Government memo warned of high security risk at website

CNNMoney: Security hole found in Obamacare website

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 1835 GMT (0235 HKT)
House Speaker John Boehner said he has sued the Obama Administration in federal court over its decisions to make changes to the President's health care law.
November 11, 2014 -- Updated 2000 GMT (0400 HKT)
Two potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates -- Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Marco Rubio -- are teaming up on a proposal to replace Obamacare.
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 0124 GMT (0924 HKT)
Tthe Department of Health and Human Services has released a report highlighting the impact of the law on hospital costs.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1505 GMT (2305 HKT)
Two U.S. appeals courts issued conflicting rulings on a subject that's important to millions of people: the availability of subsidies to help purchase coverage.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1406 GMT (2206 HKT)
It was a tale of two rulings -- the best of times and the worst of times for Obamacare in the federal appeals courts.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1000 GMT (1800 HKT)
More than half the public says Obamacare has helped, but less than one in five say they've personally benefited from the health care law.
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 1201 GMT (2001 HKT)
House Republicans are going forward with plans to sue President Barack Obama and will base their legal case on the sweeping health care law he championed and they despise.
October 29, 2013 -- Updated 2241 GMT (0641 HKT)
Nationally, consumers are learning a number of well-known hospitals won't accept insurance under Obamacare.
December 23, 2013 -- Updated 1816 GMT (0216 HKT)
Open enrollment started October 1. Here's a step-by-step guide to navigating the insurance marketplaces, also known as exchanges.
October 19, 2013 -- Updated 0837 GMT (1637 HKT)
Obamacare has survived a Supreme Court appeal, a government shutdown and ongoing challenges by opposing politicians.
September 26, 2013 -- Updated 1444 GMT (2244 HKT)
If you don't know what all those health insurance buzz-words like "co-pay" and "premium" mean, you're not alone.
It's a popular assertion, but is it true? The CNN Politics team hunts down the facts.
Some may offer help navigating the new health insurance marketplace for a fee. Others will warn that you will need a new Medicare card.
September 30, 2013 -- Updated 1657 GMT (0057 HKT)
Who's in, who's out... and what about the costs? CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta breaks down Obamacare.
Consumers can avoid the exchanges by buying plans directly from insurers or through brokers. But should they?
Here's the first look at insurance premiums on 36 exchanges run by the federal government.
Check out our page with all things you need to know about Obamacare and how it will affect you.
ADVERTISEMENT