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Washington Beat: Developers Of Affordable Care Act Website Grilled On Capitol Hill

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People who have tried to buy insurance on the Affordable Care Act exchanges have complained of delays, inaccurate information and other glitches, and on Thursday, the government contractors responsible for developing healthcare.gov got a grilling on Capitol Hill.
Washington bureau reporter Geoff Bennett filed the following report for NY1.

There was heated questioning Thursday from the House Energy and Commerce Committee as Congress tries to figure out what went wrong with the development of healthcare.gov and what can be done to fix it.

The contractors who built the site tried to deflect blame for its problems, pointing the finger at each other and the federal agency responsible for overseeing the website's development.

One contractor said his company needed more time for testing instead of the two weeks the government allowed.

"It appears one of the reasons for the high concurrent volume at the registration system was the late decision requiring consumers to register for an account before they could browse for insurance products," said Andrew Slavitt, group executive vice president of Optum/OSSI.

Although President Barack Obama once boasted that shopping for insurance would be as simple as buying a TV on Amazon.com, the lead contractor described a development process that was anything but simple, with multiple companies working on individual parts of the site.

"The exchange is comprised of six complex systems and involves 55 contractors, including CGI Federal, five government agencies, 36 states and more than 300 insurers with more than 4,500 insurance plans," said Cheryl Campbell, senior vice president of CGI Federal.

Partisan politics echoed throughout the hearing, and at one point, tempers flared.

New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone: We have my Republican colleagues trying to scare everybody.
Texas Rep. Joe Barton: Will the gentleman yield?
Pallone: No, I will not yield to this monkey court or whatever this thing is.
Barton: This is not a monkey court.
Pallone: Do whatever you want. I'm not yielding.

Obama says fixing the health care website is a top priority. The disastrous rollout has fueled Republicans' latest call to delaying parts of the Affordable Care Act, including the mandate that Americans buy insurance or pay a fine.

Democrats blame Republican governors, who forced the Obama administration to create a huge federal marketplace by refusing to create their own state-wide exchanges. State websites are generally working well.

Still, the lead contractor says the federal website's problems will be fixed in time for people to enroll in the health insurance exchange by January 1.

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