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Obamacare hearing: oversight or overplayed?

Republicans could ask real questions about the health care law rollout -- or they could act out a political theater
/ Source: MSNBC TV

Republicans could ask real questions about the health care law rollout -- or they could act out a political theater

Let the blame game begin.

Contractors who helped develop the glitch-filled HealthCare.gov website are testing in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday  morning.

Officials from CGI Federal, Optum/QSSI, Equifax Workforce Solutions and Serco are set to appear. 

While there are serious questions to ask these companies about what went wrong, when -- and who knew about the probelms, the big unknown is whether this hearing or others will be true exercises in oversight or pure political theater for Republicans who have tried to stymie the law for years and are now reveling in its flubbed rollowout. 

Republican Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, the committee’s chairman, said the goal of the hearing is to find out if contractors and the Obama Administration knew of the problems and did not disclose them, or if they were simply unexpected.

Upton said at the hearing he was repeatedly assured that “everything’s on track. Except it wasn’t, as we all know too well.”

 Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who has come under fire for the glitches and is expected to testify in front of Congress as early as next week, told CNN on Tuesday that Obama was unaware of the technical problems until the website launched. 

According to prepared testimony, however, contractors are likely to blame everyone except themselves.

 Andy Slavitt, of QSSI—which designed a part of the website that looks into applicant’s personal details like income—will blame the administration, arguing a late decision mandating potential customers to make accounts before looking at specific health plans may have contributed to the overload.

“This may have drive higher simultaneous usage of the registration system that wouldn’t have occurred if consumers could window-shop anonymously.”

Cheryl Campbell, a senior vice president of CGI, which built the site, said the fingers shouldn’t be pointed at the contractors. HHS “serves the important role of systems integrator or quarterback on this project and is the ultimate responsible party for the end-to-end performance.”

She added "no amount of testing within reasonable time limits can adequately replicate a live environment of this nature."

Since the rollout of the website on Oct 1, Americans have run into several glitches, including delays, receiving error messages, and getting the Spanish-language version of the site. Obama admitted during a Rose Garden speech on Monday that the website for his signature Affordable Care Act has “been too slow” and that “people have been getting stuck.” The president promised to fix the issues, pointed out Americans could sign up the old-fashioned way, via phone or in person, and insisted the problem was a technical one, and not with the law itself.