World News

Tech Executives Blame US officials for Insurance Site Problems

U.S. technology contractors are blaming health care officials in the administration of President Barack Obama for the widespread problems in the start-up of a new government Internet health insurance portal.

An official at one of the contractors, Andrew Slavitt of QSSI, told a congressional panel Thursday that his company shared its concerns with government officials about faults it saw in the development of the website before its October 1 opening. The government, however, opened the site as planned, only to leave millions of uninsured Americans staring at computers showing error messages and blocking them from looking at health care policies they could buy.

Slavitt said it was particularly troublesome that government officials made "a late decision" to force people looking to buy insurance to register personal financial information before they could browse for policies. Some critics say the government officials wanted potential customers to register first so they would not be shocked at the cost of buying insurance, some of them for the first time.

Another technology official, Cheryl Campbell of CGI Federal, said the online site was overwhelmed at the start by the millions of people trying to access the insurance portal. She said the web site was "not a standard consumer" portal that most people are accustomed to, making the enrollment process "difficult for too many Americans."

But Campbell, whose firm is the main contractor on the project, said the system should not be scrapped. She said the website is now performing better, and that it would be fixed so that those hoping to buy insurance will be able to do so by December 15, So policies can take effect on New Year's Day.

The hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee was highly politicized. Republicans opposed to the law, popularly known in the U.S. as Obamacare, called its launch a disaster.

The panel's chairman, Michigan congressman Fred Upton, accused government officials of withholding information about the website's failures.

"We still don't know the real picture. The administration appears allergic to transparency and continues to withhold enrollment figures."

Democrats on the committee said that many people are successfully buying insurance, but they, too, complained about the website problems.

Mr. Obama, who counts the law as his signature legislative achievement, said earlier this week that no one is more upset than he is about the shortcomings of the web site. He has called in key private and government technology experts to try to fix the health insurance portal.

The government official overseeing the start of the insurance system, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, is set to testify next week about the website failures and efforts to correct them.

Under the new law, people without private health insurance can sign up for government subsidized insurance. But those who choose not to buy any insurance will have to pay a fine.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs