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Obamacare rollout: Administration was warned last spring of risks, report says

By Frank Thorp, NBC News

The Obama administration, including Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, was warned in April that there was insufficient time to complete testing before launching Healthcare.gov, according to a document released by a House committee investigating the website’s botched rollout.

The document, a 15-page slide show obtained by the Energy and Commerce Committee from the consulting firm McKinsey & Co., compares an ideal situation when rolling out a website such as Healthcare.gov with what developers were facing.

According to the committee, the presentation was given April 4 to a group including Sebelius and Marilyn Tavenner, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the HHS agency responsible for the rollout.

The document states that an ideal situation would be “end-to-end integrated operations and IT testing,” but that the situation at the time was one with “insufficient time and scope of end-to-end testing.” The document also says that a “limited initial launch” would be ideal, but that a “launch at full volume” was instead the plan.

Republicans are questioning testimony Sebelius gave to the committee during a hearing two weeks after she got the briefing, when she said development of the site was “on track and on time.”

“At this point, our energy and resources are focused on getting it up and running, and we are on track and the contracts have been led and we are monitoring it every step along the way,” Sebelius told the committee April 18. “I can tell you we are on track.”

In a statement, the chairman of the committee, Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., said that Sebelius had “appeared before our committee, looked us in the eye, and repeatedly testified everything was ‘on track and on time.’”

“We now know that was not the case and the secretary was aware implementation was in trouble,” he said.

CMS said in a statement that it has “continually evaluated progress and has taken steps to prioritize and address concerns, and mitigate risk.”

Healthcare.gov, the federal government’s website for providing subsidized health coverage to millions of uninsured people in 36 states, has been plagued by problems since its launch Oct. 1.

Administration officials have blamed the troubles on unexpectedly high volumes, have acknowledged that more testing was needed before the launch and have named a contractor to oversee the repair project.

A subcommittee will hear from Henry Chao, a CMS official, during a hearing Tuesday on the security of the site.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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