Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius asks inspector general to review health site

1:40 PM, Dec 11, 2013   |    comments
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. (Photo: Susan Walsh, AP)
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WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) - Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told a House panel Wednesday she would have "done a slower launch" of the website if she had known the scope of the site's problems and she has asked her agency's inspector general to review the site's development.

"I think the launch was flawed and failed and frustrating for millions of people," Sebelius told the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The investigation will try to find what is wrong, Sebelius said, but added she had no reason to ask the inspector general to be involved earlier, although Republicans said HHS should have known the problems the site would face when it launched Oct. 1.

When the site opened, consumers immediately faced glitches, frozen pages and long wait times. After one month, fewer than 27,000 people had enrolled in health insurance through the site. Enrollment figures released Wednesday morning showed that enrollment through the federal exchange had quadrupled in November.

The website's performance now is "night and day" compared with October, Sebelius said. The government announced the site was fixed Nov. 30, and various published and government reports indicate consumers are now having an easier time shopping for and buying insurance.

Still, Sebelius said the process needs to be better as they do move forward.

"As we continue our relentless efforts to enhance - and as we continue to adapt and improve based on the feedback we are getting from customers and issuers - we must take concrete action to prevent these problems in the future," she said. "I believe strongly in the need for accountability, and in the importance of being good stewards of taxpayer dollars."

Sebelius said she will also do the following:

• Ask the inspector general to review the site's development and take action based on his findings to improve the acquisition process, program management, and contractor performance and payment issues.

• Create a new risk officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to mitigate risk across all CMS's programs, including IT acquisition and contracting.

• Update and expand the CMS's employee best-practices training for contractor and procurement management.

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