Nightly News   |  October 24, 2013 builders say testing phase was too short

On Thursday the Obama administration provided the first details as to how many people are trying to sign up for health insurance – but they did not say how many people have actually bought insurance. NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell reports.

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>>> good evening. in the urgent and ongoing effort to fix the roll-out of the new federal health care plan website and find out what went wrong with it, today the architects of it were called before congress to explain what happened. they talked about the days and weeks leading up to the big launch and today disclosed the entire system wasn't tested end to end , as they put it, until two weeks before it was open to the public. we have seen what's happened since. it's where we begin tonight with b nbc's kelly o'donnell on capitol hill . kelly , good evening.

>> reporter: good evening, brian. today the obama administration provided the first details about how many people have been trying to sign up using the website. they say 700,000 people have registered and another 1.6 million calls have come into the call centers . they are not saying how many people have bought insurance. a house committee grilled the company experts about what has gone so wrong. the top government contractors who built and run the flawed health care .gov website miss campbell, can you tell us when you will be able to have some of the issues repaired? ignored our questions today.

>> did you feel you had an opportunity to explain it today?

>> reporter: but did answer congress truthfully. grilled for four hours.

>> is that a system you are proud of?

>> these problems need to be fixed fast.

>> reporter: contractors responsible for different parts of the health care website and enrollment process claimed they did their jobs well and are working to fix system bugs.

>> you keep speaking about un unexpected volumes. that really sticks in my craw. pro-flowers doesn't crash on valentine's day.

>> reporter: as the day wore on there was a more frank assessment.

>> we are not excited nor pleased with what we delivered on october 1 . in principle, it worked.

>> reporter: today's hearing did uncover new facts. contractors said the government agency in charge waited the too long to test the parts of the website system together. just two weeks before it launched october 1 .

>> what is the recommended industry standard for end to end tests before rolling up a major website like this.

>> months would be nice.

>> reporter: the contractors blamed the same agency for a last minute change. instead of consumers browsing for different insurance plans the system required consumers to register online first.

>> we weren't made available of this this until the final few days prior to the launch.

>> reporter: you're confident they can fix it after the delays?

>> i'm confident they told us they can fix it.

>> reporter: fred upton says they must get more answers. have you learned yet who was responsible?

>> it seems like there was a lot of finger pointing and all of it was going to the administration.

>> reporter: much of the new information will be used to prepare questions for health and human services secretary kathleen sebelius when she testifies next week. also more than 30 house republicans sent a letter to the president asking for secretary sebelius to resign. brian?

>> kelly o'donnell starting us uh off tonight from capitol hill .