House committee gets rough with Sebelius over healthcare.gov

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Health and Human Services Department Secretary Kathleen Sebelius apologized for the failure of healthcare.gov at an Oct. 30 hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

“I am as frustrated and angry as anyone with the failed launch of Healthcare.gov,” she said.

The hearing was held to investigate the problems with the website.

Despite the purpose of the hearing, many Republicans spent their four minutes of allotted time questioning Sebelius about citizens who had to change their health care plan despite the president’s promise they wouldn’t have to.

Other Republicans had an ax to grind with Sebelius. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., repeatedly interrupted the health secretary, saying many of her constituents were losing their current health care because of the Affordable Care Act. Blackburn also pointed out the healthcare.gov website was down at the time of the hearing. FedScoop’s attempts to use the website at the time were successful.

Democrats were less irate in their line of questioning, with many praising the health care bill. However, they did reiterate the need for a working website.

“We have very high expectations for you and the administration,” said Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla.

Some important facts did reveal themselves during the hearing. Sebelius admitted the website was only tested for two weeks before it launched Oct. 1.

According to Sebelius, who has been in office since April 2009, the website can currently process 17,000 applicants in an hour, or about five applicants every second.

Healthcare.gov went dark this past weekend and also Oct. 29. Sebelius pointed out the problem was due to the servers, which are managed by Verizon.

The United States, at this point, has spent $188 million on the website and $56 million on other IT to support the website, according to the secretary.

HHS hired CGI Federal to develop and design the website. The contract has a $197 million ceiling that extends to March 2014.

HHS plans to have healthcare.gov running smoothly by the end of November.

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HealthCare.gov, Kathleen Sebelius, Marsha Blackburn, Tech
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