The Slatest

No One Tested the Obamacare Website Until It Was Too Late

A woman looks at the insurance exchange internet site October 1, 2013 in Washington, D.C.

Photo by Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

This may not cost her her job, but it’s a safe bet that Republicans will have a few questions about it when they finally get the chance to grill Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius next week, via the Washington Post:

Days before the launch of President Obama’s online health ­insurance marketplace, government officials and contractors tested a key part of the Web site to see whether it could handle tens of thousands of consumers at the same time. It crashed after a simulation in which just a few hundred people tried to log on simultaneously. Despite the failed test, federal health officials plowed ahead.

When the Web site went live Oct. 1, it locked up shortly after midnight as about 2,000 users attempted to complete the first step, according to two people familiar with the project. …

Some key testing of the system did not take place until the week before launch, according to [one] person [close to the project]. As late as Sept. 26, there had been no tests to determine whether a consumer could complete the process from beginning to end: create an account, determine eligibility for federal subsidies and sign up for a health insurance plan, according to two sources familiar with the project.

Sebelius agreed last night to appear before the House Energy and Commerce Committe on Oct. 30. The panel will also have an Obamacare-themed panel on Thursday, when they’ll hear from several of the companies that are working on the troubled, including the two main contractors, CGI Federal and Quality Software Services Inc. House Republicans have made it no secret that they are out for blood. While they might not get it in their preferred form—Sebelius’ job—Obamacare’s stumbling start may give them a much-needed consolation prize: the chance to turn the page from this month’s government shutdown and debt-ceiling fight, which has done serious damage to GOP polling numbers.

Elsewhere in Slate, my colleague Will Oremus flags the one disheartening number that suggests won’t be fixed anytime soon; and John Dickerson explains why President Obama’s spin may only make things worse.

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