In the first of a series of hearings, lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle sought answers on what led to the massive technical glitches that rendered the rollout of the Obamacare website a disaster.
The finger pointing started the moment Thursday's session before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee came to order.
"We were promised a website where people could easily compare plans and costs. Five-hundred million dollars later we find that the American people have been dumped with the ultimate cash for clunkers, except they had to pay the cash and still got the clunker," Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., charged.
Some Democrats on the committee acknowledged the website problems.
"We want to know what is wrong with the website and how we can help fix it," Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said.
CBN News's George Thomas shares his insights on the Obamacare site fiasco on CBN Newswatch, Oct. 24.
But others accused Republicans of using the hearings for ulterior motives.
"I'd like to think that somehow this hearing is above board and legitimate, but it is not," Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., said.
"The Republicans don't have clean hands coming here," he said. "Their effort obviously isn't to make this better, but to use the website and glitches as excuse to defund or repeal Obamacare."
Three weeks after the launch, people are still having trouble creating accounts and getting accurate insurance estimates.
"After the launch, HealthCare.gov was inundated by many more consumers than anticipated. Many of the critical components developed by these multiple vendors were overwhelmed," Andrew Slavitt, representing Obamacare site contractor QSSI, testified before the panel.
An unnamed source told CNN that the nation's top health insurers knew there were big technical problems prior to the launch.
"It's clear the folks working on this in the administration gave a far rosier picture to the people in the White House," the insider told CNN. "No one wanted to go to the White House and say to the president that your signature legislative achievement may not go so well."
Still, the executives of the companies that built the site testified that their own internal testing worked but admitted more system checks should have been done before the launch.
Slavitt said the government's last-minute decision to require consumers to register before shopping for insurance plans contributed to the initial breakdown.
"This may have driven higher simultaneous usage in registration system that wouldn't have otherwise occurred if consumers could 'window shop' anonymously," Slavitt said.
The panel assured lawmakers the site is improving every day.
"From our perspective, as painful as it sounds -- I know that the experience has been a difficult experience -- the system is working. People are enrolling. But people will be able to enroll at a faster pace," testified Cheryl R. Campbell, senior vice president of CGI Federal, the main software company that worked on the site.
Human Health and Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was invited to speak at Thursday's House congressional hearings. But she will instead testify next week.
Meanwhile, the Affordable Care enrollment deadline has been pushed back to March 31, giving Americans an extra six weeks to sign up without facing a fine.