Consultants warned of health website problems

Independent auditors briefed top Obama administration officials charged with implementing the healthcare law about problems associated with HealthCare.Gov months before the Oct. 1 launch, according to documents released by the House Energy and Commerce Committee late Monday.

McKinsey & Co., a private consulting agency, gave a series of presentations in March and April to update administration officials about potential flaws with the online federal marketplaces.

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Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen SebeliusKathleen SebeliusJerry Moran: 'I wouldn't be surprised' if Pompeo ran for Senate in Kansas Mark Halperin inks book deal 2020 Democrats fight to claim Obama's mantle on health care MORE and Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) administrator Marilyn Tavenner were among those present at the April 4th briefing, where the “Red Team” discussion focused on data hub issues that could cause system failures, long processing times due to contractor conflicts, and a handful of potential risks due to a compressed testing timeframe.

CMS said in a statement that the intent of the review was to identify potential risks so they could be addressed ahead of time.

“In early 2013, as part of a standard process to identify potential risks and develop mitigating strategies, an independent contractor was brought in to conduct an external review,” the agency said in a statement. “The review was completed six months before the beginning of open enrollment, was in line with industry best practices, and was followed by concrete action to address potential risks—as was intended.”

However, the botched Oct. 1 launch exposed a number of flaws that are consistent with what McKinsey outlined in its audit.

“As we have said many times now and as has been frequently reported, flags were definitely raised throughout the development of the website, as would be the case for any IT project this complex,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz told The Hill in a statement. “Those issues, including the ones from 6-months before launch, were, in turn taken-up by the development team housed at CMS. But nobody anticipated the size and scope of the problems we experienced once the site launched. Since that time, experts have been working night and day to get it functioning – and that is where our focus is, and should be, right now.”

President Obama has said he was not personally told of the issues plaguing the website ahead of the launch. The administration has said HealthCare.Gov will be running smoothly for a majority of users by Nov. 30, and has blamed low initial enrollment numbers on the spotty website.