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Obamacare Web troubles: what’s known so far – and what big questions remain (+video)

Lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are likely to ask some pointed questions Thursday about why the rollout of Obamacare website has gone so badly.

Congressional hearings begin on healthcare.gov problems
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A committee in the Republican-led House will question federal contractors Thursday morning, in an effort to understand why the online debut of Obamacare has gone so badly.

Lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are likely to ask some pointed questions that will shed light on a debacle that prompted President Obama himself to declare Monday, “Nobody is madder than me.”

The technical problems emerged with the Oct. 1 rollout of HealthCare.gov, thwarting Americans’ efforts to navigate the new online marketplace for health insurance.

Thursday’s hearing will be the first but not the last on this subject. Here’s a look at what’s already known, as well as what everyone from politicians to voters would like to know:

What we know: The website’s performance has been poor.

In testimony prepared for the Thursday hearing, one of the lead software contractors, CGI Federal, says that from the get-go, problems with creating user log-ins led to “a bottleneck that prevented the vast majority of users from accessing” the health-insurance exchange. As that problem was mitigated, more problems cropped up downstream, according to Cheryl Campbell of CGI.

What we’d like to know: Why has it been so bad? How much might the problems be rooted in decisions made for political reasons, and how much in poor project management or the sheer complexity of the challenge?

The website is the public face of a mammoth law cherished by Democrats and reviled by many Republicans. According to some accounts, a key flaw was a late-in-game decision to funnel people through the process of setting up accounts prior to shopping for plans. A Wall Street Journal story cited a Health and Human Services (HHS) spokeswoman saying the agency wanted to ensure that site users knew of their eligibility for subsidies before seeing insurance prices.  

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