Washington (CNN) -- [Breaking news update at 10:09 a.m.]
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(CNN) -- An official for one of the contractors on the problem-plagued website for President Barack Obama's signature health care reforms said Thursday that "the system is working, people are enrolling, but people will be able to enroll at a faster pace" as troubles get fixed. Cheryl Campbell of CGI Federal told the House Energy and Commerce Committee that her company expects the online system to be able to enroll Americans seeking health insurance by January1, and she rejected media reports that the system needs to be scrapped or that 5 million lines of code must be rewritten.
[Breaking news update at 10:09 a.m.]
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(CNN) -- A contractor on the problem-plagued government website for President Barack Obama's signature health care reforms said Thursday his company shared concerns over a lack of "all the testing we would have liked" with the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which decided to proceed with the October 1 launch of the online enrollment system as scheduled.
[Breaking news update at 10:01 a.m.]
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(CNN) -- An official at one of the contractors for the problem-plagued government website for President Barack Obama's signature health care reforms said Thursday that initial volume was higher than expected, adding that "it appears that one of the reasons for the high concurrent volume at the registration system was a late decision requiring consumers to register for an account before they could browse for insurance products," Andrew Slavitt of Optum told the House Energy and Commerce Committee. "This may have driven higher simultaneous usage of the registration system that wouldn't have otherwise occurred if consumers could 'window shop' anonymously."
(CNN) -- An official with one of the contractors that helped create the troubled government website for President Barack Obama's signature health care reforms said Thursday the software program was unprecedented, noting that it "for the first time in history" combines the process of enrolling and selecting health insurance with determining eligibility for government subsidies "all in one place."
[Breaking news update at 9:21 a.m.]
URGENT - Congress-Obamacare-Democrat
(CNN) -- Republicans should work with Democrats to fix the lone problem with President Barack Obama's signature health care reforms -- a poorly designed website -- instead of continuing efforts to "sabotage" the 2010 law, the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee said Thursday at the first congressional hearing on the troubled online enrollment system.
[Breaking news update at 9:18 a.m.]
URGENT - Congress-Obamacare-Hearing-Problems
(CNN) -- Government officials and contractors "looked us in the eye and assured us repeatedly that everything was on track, except that it wasn't," the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee said Thursday in opening the first congressional hearing on problems with the website of President Barack Obama's signature health care reforms.
[Breaking news update at 9:14 a.m.]
URGENT - Congress-Obamacare-Hearing
(CNN) -- The rollout of the website for President Barack Obama's signature health reforms has been "nothing short of a disaster," Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce committee, said Thursday in opening the first congressional hearing on problems with the online enrollment system.
Obamacare website developers: Time to point fingers?
Finger pointing over the technical blunders that gummed up the Obamacare website launch will ensue on Thursday, it appears.
Contractors who helped develop the embattled HealthCare.gov website blame each other and the government, but not themselves, in testimony prepared for the first congressional hearing on the problems engulfing the online enrollment system.
House Energy and Commerce Committee members will grill officials from CGI Federal, Optum/QSSI, Equifax Workforce Solutions and Serco at the hearing to examine technological problems faced by people trying to buy health insurance under President Barack Obama's signature reforms.
Complaints of inability to log in, lengthy delays, incorrect information relayed to insurance companies and other problems have plagued the website since it opened to much fanfare on October 1.
White House video makes HealthCare.gov issues seem simple
In the first detailed account of what happened, the prepared testimony describes a convoluted system of multiple companies designing parts of the website under oversight of the federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, a part of the Department of Health and Human Services.
According to the advance statements, the system had been tested as required but still buckled under an unanticipated flood of visitors when it opened.
Cheryl Campbell, senior vice president at CGI Federal, will tell the panel that testing of the site met industry standards and "passed eight required technical reviews prior to going live on October 1," according to her prepared testimony.
Sebelius on the spot in Obamacare website fiasco
"Unfortunately, in systems this complex with so many concurrent users, it is not unusual to discover problems that need to be addressed once the software goes into a live production environment," Campbell's advance testimony says.
"This is true regardless of the level of formal end-to-end performance testing -- no amount of testing within reasonable time limits can adequately replicate a live environment of this nature," she added.
Campbell blames initial problems on the "enterprise identity management" function known as EIDM that serves as the entry portal to the website.
The EIDM tool designed by another contractor, which Campbell's advance testimony doesn't name, "created a bottleneck that prevented the vast majority of users from accessing" Healthcare.gov when it opened, according to Campbell.
Gupta: 5 surprises from Sebelius interview
However, Andrew Slavitt of Optum, which designed the EIDM tool, says in his prepared testimony that an unexpected high volume of people registered at the start and overwhelmed the entry portal and other aspects of the website.
He puts the blame on the government, saying: "It appears that one of the reasons for the high concurrent volume at the registration system was a late decision requiring consumers to register for an account before they could browse for insurance products."
"This may have driven higher simultaneous usage of the registration system that wouldn't have occurred if consumers could 'window shop' anonymously," Slavitt's testimony says, adding that the EIDM tool was able to process the high volumes with low to zero error rates by October 8.
A third contractor, Equifax Workplace Solutions, says its role providing "real time verification of income and employment" information submitted by applicants has worked properly, according to the advance testimony by its corporate counsel, Lynn Spellecy.
Equifax conducted "multiple load and stress tests" that showed it could process up to 120,000 verification requests per hour or more, which it estimated as more than any peak period would demand, Spellecy's testimony says.
Insurers pledge to help solve website problems
Campbell also says in her prepared testimony that improvements to the EIDM tool have allowed more users to proceed to the website's main function of providing a range of choices and information on available subsidies for them to choose health insurance required by law.
"More individuals have enrolled in qualified insurance plans; however, the increased number of transactions ... have caused system performance issues (such as slow response times or data assurance issues) that now need to be addressed through tuning, optimization and application improvements," her testimony says.
The White House and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius make the same argument, saying the initial problems in accessing the website have eased.
Sebelius: Website problems blindsided President
Sebelius has brought in tech experts from Silicon Valley and elsewhere to work with the contractors on eliminating problems, with acting Office of Management and Budget Director Jeff Zients overseeing the effort.
"The work of constantly improving the website will continue day by day," White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday. "A week from now, it's going to be better than it is today."
The Energy and Commerce Committee isn't the only one probing Obamacare in light of its issues. So, too, is the House Ways and Means Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
The latter sent an eight-page letter Wednesday night to 11 contracting firms involved in putting together HealthCare.gov giving them two days to provide documents, meeting lists and all communications with the Obama administration on the project, committee spokeswoman Caitlin Carroll said.
The fact all three committees are in the same chamber -- which is led by Republicans -- is likely no coincidence. The GOP has and continues to be staunchly opposed to Obamacare, even trying unsuccessfully to make defunding or delaying it requirement before it would fund the government.
The White House has been pushing back against not just Republicans, but some Democrats who have urged an extension of the open enrollment period beyond March 31 and/or a delay in penalties for those who don't sign up for insurance on time because of the website issues.
The Obama administration is moving to clarify confusion on when people need to sign up for health care, and it has plans to issue new guidelines to this point soon.
Still, Health and Human Services spokeswoman Joanne Peters insisted "the individual mandate timing" -- i.e. the requirement for a person to have insurance by March -- "has not changed. ... It was true this morning. It is true tonight."
Pelosi pushes back on extending Obamacare deadline