Software contractors who built the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) federal exchange system defended their work at a raucous, standing-room-only House hearing convened today to allow Republicans, who constitute a majority of the House, an opportunity to cast “Obamacare” in the most negative light possible.
The hearing was held to highlight the problems faced by the federal exchange. The federal exchange is mainly designed to serve the 34 states that have refused to open their own exchanges because their leadership is opposed to the basic concept of any federal involvement in regulation of health insurance.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., a ranking Republican on the committee and an outspoken critic of Obamacare, said in her opening statement that, “These past three weeks of exchange messiness demonstrate that no member of this body should be a blind cheerleader for the Affordable Care Act and ignore the problems before their very eyes.” She later raised the issue of whether the site complied with federal health privacy laws.
Republicans did win acknowledgement during questioning of the vendors that some of the source code for the exchange is being changed, although it is unclear if that is being done daily or regularly. Vendors also acknowledged that testing of the integrated system, put together by a number of vendors, was not done until the last minute, for example, the last several weeks before launching, although ideally, the vendors testified, that such a complex site would undergo months of intensive testing.
The contractors responded by saying that they did share risks and concerns with CMS about the viability of the federal exchange system, but that CMS ultimately decided to move forward. Cheryl Campbell, senior vice president of CGI Federal, the lead contractor, told Upton that CGI is not supposed to share its opinion on whether to go live or not.
But, in their testimony, the contractors defended their work. “In systems this complex, it is not unusual to discover problems that need to be addressed once the software goes into a live production environment,” Campbell said.