Administration Official Warns of “Bumps” in Upcoming Open Enrollment Period – Website Still Not Fully Built 10 Months After Launch

July 31, 2014

GAO Confirms the Administration Knew Was Not “On Track” for First Open Enrollment Period, Risks Remain for Next Year

WASHINGTON, DC – The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, chaired by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), today held a hearing on the status of the implementation of the president’s health care law and examined what plagued its first open enrollment period. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) yesterday released a new report explaining how the administration’s poor management of implementation led to cost increases and the debacle. As full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) said, “Yesterday we learned that the price tag for is approaching $1 billion. We also learned that the administration’s poor management led to significant cost increases and an exchange that – now ten months after launch - is still not complete.”

William T. Woods, Director of Acquisition and Sourcing Management at GAO, regarding evidence that the administration knew the federally facilitated marketplace would only be 65 percent complete by October 1, 2013.

Murphy recalled the numerous occasions that CMS officials, including the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight Director Gary Cohen and CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner, testified at the Energy and Commerce Committee under oath that implementation was “on track.” Cohen testified just days before the launch of the website: “Consumers will be able to go online, they will be able to get a determination of what tax subsidies they are eligible for, they will be able to look at the plans that are available where they live, they will be able to see the premium net of subsidy that they would have to pay, and they will be able to choose a plan and get enrolled in coverage beginning October 1.” Woods did note that he was not aware of what Cohen or Tavenner knew prior to their testimony.

Andy Slavitt, Principal Deputy Administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, added that the “GAO report wasn’t news to people at CMS.” 

Even more troubling, GAO testified that “Unless CMS improves contract management and adheres to a structured governance process, significant risks remain that upcoming enrollment periods could encounter challenges.”

In answering questions from Murphy, Slavitt testified that the 2015 enrollment period, “won’t be perfect … there will clearly be bumps.”

Slavitt also confirmed to Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Vice Chairman Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-TX) that the vital backend of the exchanges is still incomplete, despite the website having launched 10 months ago.