Sebelius Says More Website Tests Would Have Been Better

The website allowing consumers to obtain medical coverage under Obamacare would have had more testing “in an ideal world,” U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said.

The number of people using the healthcare.gov website exceeded the government’s expectations, Sebelius said at a news conference today in Austin, Texas. Site failures have made it difficult to enroll, marring the implementation of President Barack Obama’s health-care law.

“I don’t think anyone knew that the volume would cause the problems it did,” she said. “I didn’t realize it wouldn’t be operating optimally before the launch.”

The U.S. government did final tests of the website just days before it went public, while similar projects are tested for months, the main contractors yesterday told a House panel investigating flaws that hobbled the Oct. 1 debut.

Testing assumed the maximum number of users would be no more than five times the peak on the medicare.gov website, Sebelius said.

“We thought that would be the maximum hits you would get at one time,” she said. “We were just wildly incorrect.”

Asked who deserves blame, Sebelius said, “we will be looking at all contracts.” She said, “there are lot of look backs we will do.”

No Extension

Extending the enrollment deadline for the insurance exchanges past March 31, a suggestion by several Democratic U.S. senators, isn’t being considered, Sebelius said later in San Antonio. An extension would make it hard for insurance providers, who need to know enrollment levels to make pricing decisions, she said.

“We are committed to meeting this deadline. We are committed to having an operational site,” Sebelius said. “We already have 700,000 applications that have been submitted so we know there is a huge interest and a huge pent-up demand.”

Sebelius met today with the mayors of Austin and San Antonio and said that leaders of Texas’s four largest cities are championing health care reform. The program is opposed by Governor Rick Perry and other Republican leaders in the second-most populous state.

To contact the reporter on this story: David Mildenberg in Austin at dmildenberg@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Merelman at smerelman@bloomberg.net

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