The Canadian company that built the Obamacare website came under attack in the U.S. Congress on Thursday, as politicians from both sides of the aisle sought to lay blame for the site’s glitch-ridden rollout.
Montreal-based CGI Group built HealthCare.gov, the website that hosts Obamacare insurance exchanges for 36 participating states. Since it went live on Oct. 1, the site has suffered from a litany of computer problems that are keeping consumers from signing up and buying insurance on the health care exchanges.
Republican lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee questioned whether CGI and other contractors had hidden problems ahead of the launch, or whether the federal agencies responsible were “incompetent,” the Globe and Mail reported.
House Democrats suggested the Republicans were simply trying another tack in their fight to stop Obamacare.
“Their effort obviously isn’t to make this better, but to use the website and the glitches as an excuse to defund or repeal Obamacare,” New Jersey Democrat Frank Pallone said.
But the Obamacare glitches have created problems for Democratic politicians facing re-election in 2014 who were hoping to run on the law's new benefits for millions of uninsured Americans.
One House Democrat says the president needs to "man up" and fire somebody, while others are calling for signup deadlines to be extended and a reconsideration of the penalties individuals will face next year if they remain uninsured.
Cheryl Campbell, senior vice-president of CGI Federal, the U.S. subsidiary that built the site, suggested in prepared testimony that Congress should look beyond the contractors.
The Department of Health and Human Services "serves the important role of systems integrator or 'quarterback' on this project and is the ultimate responsible party for the end-to-end performance," she said.
Overwhelming interest from consumers triggered the website problems, she said.
"No amount of testing within reasonable time limits can adequately replicate a live environment of this nature," she said.
The U.S. government has paid CGI at least $88 million U.S. to build and support the federal exchange.
But glitches plagued the CGI-built website from the moment it launched Oct. 1.
“Blank boxes where security questions are supposed to appear. Pleas to ‘be patient.’ Error messages galore. Notices that ‘the system is busy right now.’ Web pages timing out before they load. Garbled lines of text riddled with stray question marks,” Reuters reported.
And the glitches had a substantial impact. According to an AP-GfK poll, three-quarters of visitors to the site reported problems signing up.
— With earlier reporting and files from the Associated Press
<a href="http://blogs.wsj.com/cfo/2012/07/23/mcdonalds-cfo-sees-up-to-420m-in-new-health-care-costs/" target="_blank">Peter Bensen, McDonald's chief financial officer</a>, said on a conference call last year that Obamacare will cost the company and its franchisees $140 million to $420 million per year. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/16/whole-foods-ceo-obamacare-fascism_n_2488029.html" target="_blank">John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, told NPR</a> in January that Obamacare is "like fascism." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/17/whole-foods-fascism_n_2496603.html" target="_blank">He then told HuffPost Live</a> that he regretted making that comparison. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/07/papa-johns-obamacare-pizza_n_1752126.html" target="_blank">John Schnatter, CEO of Papa John's</a>, said in August that Obamacare will cost the company $0.11 to $0.14 per pizza. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-h-schnatter/papa-johns-obamacare_b_2166209.html" target="_blank">But he has maintained</a> that Papa John's offers and will continue to offer health insurance to all of its employees. (Photo by Diane Bondareff/Invision for Papa John's International/AP Images)
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/04/cheesecake-factory-ceo-david-overton-obamacare_n_2236673.html" target="_blank">David Overton, CEO of the Cheesecake Factory, told CBS</a> in December that Obamacare "will be very costly" and "most people will have to [raise prices] or cheapen their product" in response. Dina Barmasse-Gray, the Cheesecake Factory's senior vice president of human resources, said in a statement to The Huffington Post: "We have the highest regard for the wellbeing of our staff members, and have offered health insurance to our staff members who work at least 25 hours per week for many years. Because of our long history of providing health benefits, and based on our current analysis of the new requirements, we do not believe the Affordable Health Care Act will have a material impact on us."
<a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324392804578358540464713464.html" target="_blank">Boeing lobbied unsuccessfully</a> against a new Obamacare fee, according to the Wall Street Journal. And it is generally concerned about Obamacare's costs. "Boeing agrees with the intent of the Affordability Care Act – to provide increased access to coverage, to improve quality, and in the long run, to help manage the overall cost of the health care system," Boeing spokesman Joseph Tedino said in a statement provided to The Huffington Post in March. "However, while the details and implications of the ACA continue to emerge, the net financial impact to Boeing since the inception of law and for the foreseeable future is negative." (Photo by Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images)
CKE (Owner Of Hardee's)
<a href="http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-09-21/hardee-s-owner-ceo-says-2012-ipo-unlikely-as-costs-rise" target="_blank">Andrew Puzder, CEO of CKE, told</a> Bloomberg Businessweek last year that he plans to respond to Obamacare by selling cheaper meats and hiring more part-time workers. <a href="http://www.newsmax.com/RonaldKessler/Hardee-s-CEO-Obamacare-Puzder/2012/09/20/id/456919" target="_blank">He also told Newsmax</a> he plans to build fewer restaurants in response. (Photo by Erik S. Lesser/Getty Images)
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/15/jimmy-johns-ceo-obamacare_n_2137679.html" target="_blank">Jimmy John's CEO Jimmy John Liautaud told Fox News</a> last year that he plans to cut his workers' hours in order to avoid having to offer them health insurance under Obamacare. "We have to bring them down to 28 hours [per week]," he said. "There's no other way we can survive it."