Republicans have fought at every turn to delay and dismantle the Affordable Care Act, but Thursday the GOP had a chance to focus on its flaws.
In the weeks since the Affordable Care Act's exchanges have opened, users have reported long wait times, inaccurate information and frozen webpages.
After interrogating a team of private software contractors during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing, lawmakers learned that the warning signs of malfunction were present before the administration unveiled the website, but the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services ignored the signs.
Cheryl Campbell, the senior vice president of CGI Federal, reiterated that her company had made CMS aware of the issues and it was not her company's decision "to go live."
Witnesses testified that inadequate timing was another factor that exasperated the glitches.
Andrew Slavitt, the executive vice president of Optum, which tested the exchange website, reported that instead of having the necessary months needed to test the website, his company had just days at the end of September. The site went live Oct. 1.
"Ideally, integrated testing would have occurred well before that," Slavitt testified.
Republicans at the hearing asked tough questions, but seemed resigned to save some of their zingers for Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who will testify before the committee next week.
"I do believe you all did your best," Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., said, adding she thought the contractors should throw CMS "under the bus."
Some lawmakers laid into the companies which had testified before the same committee in September and promised them that the website was ready for prime time.
"Why did they assure us the website would work,?" Committe Chairman Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., asked in opening testimony. "These companies represented that the exchanges would be ready for open enrollment on Oct. 1. They also explained that their testing of the system had not identified any significant problems."
Other Republicans like Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-W. Va., and Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, emphasized that healthcare.gov was violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which requires patient information to remain confidential. Contractors argued that was not the case because the website did not require patients to put their medical records online before signing up.
Another lawmaker, computer programmer Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, balked at the suggestion that healthcare.gov could even be improved. He argued, instead, the entire website would need to be scrapped and rebuilt from scratch.
"You cannot recook eggs," Johnson said. "You either eat the eggs you got, which means you don't get what you ordered. Or you send them back and the restaurant owner eats the cost."
Democrats at the hearing were irritated by the GOP's aggressive tactics.
Most acknowledged that the website needs fixing, but dismissed Republicans's accusation that it was dead in the water.
Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., the longest serving congressman on Capitol Hill, asked his fellow lawmakers to keep in mind that no legislative process is flawless.
"The last perfect law came off the top of Mount Sinai," Dingell said. "Note, nothing so good has happened since."
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