Republicans open investigation into flawed Obamacare rollout

A screen still of the HealthCare.gov Web site. Healthcare.gov

Since the Affordable Care Act's new online insurance marketplaces launched on Oct. 1, they've been plagued by technical problems, and congressional Republicans intend to find out why.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the top Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, sent a letter Thursday to Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius asking about the alleged architectural problems with the federally-run website Healthcare.gov that serves 36 states.

HHS spent almost $394 million over three years in contracts to build the online marketplace (referred to as an exchange). Yet from day one, Issa and Alexander wrote, "healthcare.gov has been plagued by what Administration officials initially referred to as technical glitches."

The administration has acknowledged the problems are more than just glitches and says it is working to fix the technical issues. Nevertheless, Americans this week still had trouble trying to apply for insurance on healthcare.gov. According to an Associated Press/GFK poll released Thursday, three quarters of those who tried to purchase insurance on the new state-based exchanges reported problems with their experience.

Issa and Alexander asked Sebelius to detail the technical problems with healthcare.gov, and to name the contractors involved in creating the problems and correcting them. They also asked, among other things, how much the problems are costing the department and how many people have successfully signed up for insurance via healthcare.gov.

Republicans House Energy and Commerce Committee also sent a letter Thursday to Sebelius about the flawed rollout, as well as letters to the leaders of two companies that received contracts from HHS to work on the website -- Quality Software Services, Inc. and CGI. The committee members are asking for briefings with HHS and both companies no later than Wednesday, as well as documentation of the communications between HHS and the companies relating to the website's construction.

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