WASHINGTON — The Obama administration turned to a private contractor on Friday to take the lead in resolving the computer problems that have plagued President Barack Obama's biggest domestic initiative, his health care law.
Administration officials announced that one of the website's subcontractors — QSSI, Inc. — is being promoted to general contractor with overall responsibility for fixing the HealthCare.gov website, set up to help Americans buy health insurance.
The problem-riddled site was supposed to be the online portal for uninsured Americans to get medical coverage under Obama's health care law, but it has turned into a huge bottleneck instead.
Until now, officials at a government agency had the lead role.
QSSI has built a component of the website — called the data hub — that is working relatively well.
The U.S. has been the only major developed country without a national health care system, and the overhaul was supposed to change that. The system is not the centralized, government-run setup seen in places like Britain and instead uses various ways to require or encourage Americans to get private or, for the poor or elderly, government-provided insurance.
What's known as Obamacare is the closest the U.S. has ever come to universal health care after a century of efforts, and it has been under heavy attack by Republicans from the start. Now, with congressional elections coming next year, the opposition is using the Obama administration's handling of the troubled launch to regain momentum after the government shutdown fight.
Obama says he's as frustrated as anyone and has promised a "tech surge" to fix the health website.
The head of the government department responsible for the rollout of the program, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, has promised to review the performance of contractors who helped build the foundering website.
Sebelius said she would make sure taxpayers got their money's worth from the private companies involved.
During a visit to Austin, Texas she met with two people who had successfully used the website to enroll in a health plan. Both said they struggled with the site but were eventually happy with their policies and the prices they paid.
Sebelius said the website is getting better every day, but still needs improvement.