Obamacare Website Company Had Troubled History

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WASHINGTON -- The main Obamacare websites have been so riddled with problems, they are casting a shadow over the Affordable Care Act launch.

With thousands of people unable to navigate the sites, the technical glitches could well create serious problems for the federal health system itself.

Grace-Marie Turner, who heads the Galen Institute, a non-profit organization that focuses on creating a better health care system, said President Barack Obama has lost credibility.

"I think the president has lost enormous credibility because he told people the day before it launched this is going to be just as easy as shopping for an airplane ticket or shopping on Amazon," Turner told CBN News.

According to Turner, the test period before the big launch showed these major issues were likely to happen.

"They did a test with just a few hundred people around the country going onto the site at the same time a few days before it launched, and it crashed the site," she said.

"What about the 20 million people who've tried to get on the site since then? They had to know this was not going to work. They went ahead with it anyway," she said.

All the problems have spawned headlines about CGI Federal, the firm at the center of building the websites.

It turns out CGI Federal's parent company lost a $46 million contract last year with Ontario, Canada, after missing deadlines to set up its Internet medical registry for three years.

"They weren't able to meet guidelines to have a product up and running that physicians can use," a Canadian official told The Washington Examiner. "It dragged on and on."

U.S officials, meanwhile, gave contracts totaling $87 million to CGI Group's subsidiary, CGI Federal, to get the Affordable Care websites up and running.

These officials won't say if they knew of CGI's embarrassing Canadian troubles when they handed out or were administering the contracts.

"Health and Human Services Department decided it [CGI Federal] was going to be the lead contractor without the expertise to run something that is probably the most complicated website that's ever been created. No wonder it's a failure," Turner said. "And I think it's going to be very difficult to fix this."

But CGI has had its successes, too, including on complicated software for government agencies.

Indeed, a big part of the problem with the Obamacare websites may well be the government itself.

The Washington Post reports that the Department of Health and Human Services took years to lay out the final specifications for the system so CGI couldn't really get started on the websites until this spring. And the government may have grossly underestimated the costs.

On top of that, more than 50 other companies were working on the project. Getting all that software to work together is very difficult, even when a project isn't rushing to meet a deadline.

So while no one is sure what went wrong, there appears to be plenty of blame to go around -- from the software companies to the government -- which may not have given those businesses enough time or money to get the job done right.

And that already has some critics asking this question: If the government can't handle setting up the website correctly, how will it handle all the medical aspects of Obamacare itself?

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Paul  Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/PaulStrandCBN.