Obama administration officials on Tuesday acknowledged that it still has to build elements of HealthCare.gov, even as it attempts to fix problems on existing portions of the Obamacare website.
"We still have to build the payment systems to make payments to issuers in January," Henry Chao, HealthCare.gov's chief project manager at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), told a subpanel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee today.
CMS spokeswoman Julie Bataille confirmed to reporters that certain "back end" systems are still being built, including financial management systems to transfer tax credits to insurers. Those systems, she said, are not essential until 2014.
"This is a complex project with a short timeline," Bataille said. "We had to prioritize consumer application for the Oct. 1 launch."
Asked about the issue at the White House press briefing Tuesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney was clearly exasperated.
"Breaking news: the website is a problem," he said. "And we have been working on it."
Carney noted that the people who are attempting to work "24/7" on improving the website are instead stuck "spending a lot of time on Capitol Hill."
"But the fact is, yes, we're concerned about the website," he said. "That's why the president is focused so intently on making sure that the best possible teams are working on making improvements to it; that people are working around the clock, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to fix the problems that the website itself has experienced and to ensure that all aspects of it are functioning when they're supposed to function."
The administration is still aiming to have the HealthCare.gov, which serves as a portal to the new Obamacare marketplaces for 36 states, working for the vast majority of users by the end of November.